Everybody who’s working in the music industry has had to find their own way in; it really all depends on what you bring to the table. You must be aware of what you can offer, and work from there, doing whatever you can to attract the audience you want to appeal to. Jacob “Quist” Quistgaard is a prolific guitarist and composer, touring on his own as well as with some of the world’s biggest musical acts. Jacob speaks to Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen about his journey from the YouTube sphere to international superstardom. Looking for your next musical inspiration? Jacob can be that for you!
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The Music Industry And The Journey To International Headliner With Jacob “Quist” Quistgaard
Quist, the kombucha, what’s the assessment so far? Is it good? Is it funky? Is it weird, good funky like George Clinton funky or Doobie Brothers funky? What style of a funk?
It’s an old school funk. It’s good. I like it.
It’s not one of the ones that have super high alcohol content.
Does it have alcohol?
It does have trace amounts because of the fermentation process. Anytime anything is fermented, I don’t know if you ever rock like kefir or fermented vegetables or anything like that. In the fermentation process of either say a kombucha or even if you’re fermenting vegetables, even sauerkraut. There is a certain amount of alcohol that gets released during the fermenting process, but by no means are you going to get drunk. They do have kombucha beer. That’s a thing. It’s where they take kombucha and they brew it similarly to the way beer is brewed and it becomes this kombucha beer hybrid. I’m not a beer drinker. I’m not a drinker at all.
I’m not a big beer drinker either. It happens, but I’m more of a lager dude.
I bet it happens. This beer that shows up and you’re like, “All right. Okay.”
“I’ll take it.”
I’ve learned to appreciate a Guinness all the time.
Guinness is vegan. It wasn’t vegan in the past.
What? I didn’t know this.
What do you mean? What part didn’t you know?
The part about it being vegan. I always thought because it had isinglass.
I’m going to double-check but I’m almost positive.
When I first dove into the veganism, they were like, “You can’t have Guinness.” I didn’t know this.
I don’t drink it either but in 2017 or 2018, it went vegan.
I feel a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve never had a Guinness in my life.
Maybe you should go to Ireland before you have one.
I was going to say that’s great and not that I need an excuse.
Go to Ireland and then have one there because then you’ll start off a good way.
Have you been to the factory?
I haven’t been to the factory.
When I went to Dublin, I went up there. It’s cool. I was young too. I was 18 or 19.
Are you taking tasters?
Yeah. I was like, “I could drink as much as I want.” It was fun. Also, we didn’t have a ton of time there. I downed a ton of Guinness and being eighteen and not having a lot of drinking experience. I was working as a nanny at that time. That was an interesting experience.
It’s a good source of iron, which was why I started drinking again because my body was telling me, “I need iron. How can I get it?” I was like, “Guinness.” I started ordering a Guinness.
Quist, dropping a nutritional knowledge off of that.
I didn’t know that it’s full of iron.
That’s what I’ve been told. I hope it’s true and it feels good. You know when your body tells you you’re doing something right. I felt that occasionally when I have one of those but only one. I’ll never have more than one.Nowadays, many of the things that people consume are free. Click To Tweet
It’s good to know your limit with that, honestly, because for me even with red wine, which is what I usually go to. It’s a great song, not the UB40 version, the Neil Diamond version. Not all people know that. Wine, if I have one glass, I feel great. If I go beyond one glass, I start to feel not great. You want to feel good. It’s supposed to be an enjoyable experience.
Plus the next day’s situation, for me anyway, can be quite harsh with wine.
For sure in terms of head buzz, headache.
It’s like slowness.
Quist, I was in the shower and I was repeating your name over and over again, not in a hyper-sexualized way. I realized how I’m into the phonetics of how things sound doing this show, singing, and being on the microphone a lot. I’m into the sound and the energy. Your name is pleasing, the phonetics of it, Quist. It reminds me of a hybrid between quench, crisp, and quick. This is tangential as hell, but I feel like a side hustle or another income stream besides your incredible music career that we’ll talk about is you could have a sparkling beverage and call it Quist.
There has been a bubbly drink. I remember seeing a picture of it.
Here in the US or Scandinavia?
I’m not sure where there is.
It’s Quirst. The beer? It says, “Quirst.”
As in thirst, like quench your thirst.
I remember seeing one that was called Quist.
Maybe there’s another one. This one is called Quist. Maybe it’s the same company and they took out the R or they added it.
They agreed with your sentiment.
This is weird. I feel like you need to be getting residuals from this. I feel like there’s a lawsuit coming.
To be fair, this was in existence before.
Before you were on the planet? Have you ever dranken the Quist beverage before? Have you seen it in person?
I’ve never. I remember seeing pictures of it.
Is dranken a word?
Did I say dranken? I said dranken like the Kraken. Release the dranken.
I almost didn’t question it because you’re good with words. I’m like, “It must be a word.” I’m not as good with words as you are.
That’s my Detroit. Did you dranken it?
It’s like we’re playing Scrabble and I’m calling you out.
It’s my Detroit. Speaking of sparkly beverages, Quist, this is your first time trying cola-flavored kombucha. Is it not?
Is it your first time trying kombucha?
I have had kombucha before, but it’s not something I’ve sought out ever and not because I didn’t like it, I don’t know what it was but I didn’t latch onto that specific trend. I enjoy it. It’s good.
Welcome to the show because the brain is going to go off and do a million different directions. Do you have any specific things on your tour rider or your pre-show preparatory game we should know about? I know some musicians and athletes have not superstitions per se, but they have regimented things that they like to take, consume, or do, say before a gig, before a game, but going into the studio. With you, when you have a big gig coming up, do you have any rituals or superstitions or things that are consistent for you?
I do. In terms of things to consume, I’m not that much of a troublemaker. I like to have whiskey, but only for after. I used to have maybe one before.
When you say one, that means a shot?
Yeah, either a straight whiskey or a whiskey with a bit of Coke and ice.
Any particular brand of whiskey?
Jack D, I’m middle of the road when it comes to that, but I also like a good whiskey that I won’t put Coke in it.
An expensive Japanese whiskey or like, “I’ll put a Diet Coke in it, Coke Zero.” A $500 bottle of Japanese whiskey, it’s a perfect pairing.
As far as consuming things, I’m not that much trouble when it comes to writers and stuff, but I do have a regiment of stuff that I normally do before I go on stage. For a start, I warm up properly. I do various exercises.
Did you do that before you came on the show?
No. If I was a singer, maybe I would have to if my voice was the main thing. I’ve seen less than I was. I’m a guitarist. That’s my main job. Warming up the old fingers is something I’ve always done and it’s part of how I get into that center state where you’re ready to give your best. Seeing as we’re on this show, I also do some mental exercises that I do religiously before I go. Maybe it depends on the gig, but anything that’s a proper show in front of thousands of people or a thing where you’re like, “I’ve got to do my best here.” It doesn’t matter whether you’re in front of ten people to be honest or 10,000. I do these exercises or whatever you want to call them. I can’t remember where I learned it from but you ask yourself a couple of questions. That centers you at the moment.
Is it a presence practice?
Yeah, pretty much. What it does it also involves visualizing what is about to happen. If you visualize that, are you ready to go out and give your best, be completely in the moment, enjoy the energy that you get, and give lots of energy back? If you’ve already envisioned those things in your mind, it’s highly likely that it’s also going to happen in real life. There’s a degree of visualization and then there’s a degree of grounding yourself and be making sure that you’re completely in the moment. I started doing that. That has become a total. This is a rule almost. It’s something I do before I perform because I know that it makes you perform to the best of your ability when you’re in the right mindset. It makes a freaking difference to everything.
It applies to everything in life. It’s not going on-stage and it’s one side. You could be doing that thing every day and every morning and before everything you do, whatever. Being in the moment is that’s something to learn or it’s something to practice and something to get better. It’s something that I’ve known and realized that I’m not good at. I’ve always got a song brewing in a percentage of my mind or a thing. It’s stuff going on in your head. It’s the times in life where you are 100% at the moment, those are the ones where you do great stuff and you connect on a profound level with people and things like that.
It’s funny you say that because I have started doing the same thing when I go to concerts, being an audience, I anticipate it much. You’ll have to buy tickets months in advance. You’re excited about going to see especially if it’s an artist you love. I noticed that the concerts would go by fast and then afterward, it was this distant memory. I decided to start practicing being present for every moment I could during the concert to savor it. I love going to concerts much and I don’t want that anticipation to be a bigger high than the experience. Often concerts are 1 or 2 hours, maybe if you’re seeing multiple bands onstage or artists on stage, it will be even shorter depending on how long their set is.
Some of my greatest memories are at concerts and I don’t want them to always feel like a memory. I also want it to be super present while I’m there and notice all the details and take it all in more deeply. That’s something that I’ve been practicing a lot on my side. It’s interesting to hear that you’re doing it on your side because it goes both ways. The artist needs to be present so that the concert-goers will have the best experience possible. It also helps for concert-goers to be present and to honor the artist and be there and show their enthusiasm. It’s interesting, Jason and I, we’ve been to a few concerts.
We went to a concert at Red Rocks in Colorado, which is one of the best venues that may be on the planet, but definitely in the country. We had good seats. We were maybe halfway up, but if it felt a little farther away than I would like it to be. I noticed something there. Plus I’ve noticed this in general that if you’re not super close to the stage, you have a higher chance of being amongst people who aren’t present. Remember for that concert, Jason, there were a bunch of drunk women that were talking and yelling and here we are.
We’re like, “Please, be quiet. Please, I’m getting angry. I don’t know what to do.” It’s hard for us especially when you have a level of fanaticism and connection to an artist. Their music, their art has touched you in a profound way that other people aren’t taking it as seriously, for lack of a better term than you are. You paid money and you drove 25 hours in a car to see this band and you’re like, “Could you be quiet and be present to what’s happening?” You realize that not everyone has that same level of commitment or desire to be that present.
Some people go to socialize and that’s completely fine. It’s tough and I also feel it’s a little rude for me when I’m on stage at a live event speaking, nothing drives me crazier than when people are talking during my talk. It’s similar to I’m sure what you go through, you spend much time preparing, practicing and grounding yourself and you’re on stage to give your all. When people are watching you but are distracted or don’t want to give you the respect of their full presence, it throws you off a lot. On that note, how do you feel as an artist? I don’t know if you notice this at all or it triggers you when people are recording the entire show on their phones?
I was going to ask you because you were saying about being present and practicing being present at concerts and I’m like, “That begs the question, do you record people when you’re there?” I’m guilty of not doing it and I’m guilty of trying to be present at the moment. I do both but it’s such a thing, isn’t it? That people record and it seems like they’re not being present. They’re being a person recording like a cameraman.
That’s interesting too. There’s a joke I’ve been seeing going around of how a lot of people do record. I would say at least half of the audience records the concert on their mobile devices. How often do we go and watch the footage? It usually sits there on our phone. There’s not a lot of reasoning behind it. The other funny thing is when you record and post on Instagram, for example, like an Instagram Story. Does your audience even care to watch it? The experience is different when you’re in-person. There’s this feeling of, “I have to capture it because I don’t want to forget the experience.” They want other people to know what the experience is like, but the truth is nobody’s going to experience it the same way as they would in person.
It’s almost pointless and thus I’ve stopped recording more because it takes me out of the present moment when I’m trying to take the right photo or video clips. Sometimes I’ve posted on Instagram while I’m there and I thought, “This is silly.” I started recording and not posting right away. I realized my desire to post went away once I left the concert because I was no longer at that moment. Why did I need to record in the first place? You could look up professional recordings or professional photos and get the same result. You don’t yourself have to take that image.
We feel like we’ve gained something extra by having that moment in our pocket. We feel like we have to own that moment in that digital form.
Maybe it’s an interesting byproduct of our desire to consume and accrue stuff, not just physical items but memories, pictures, videos. It seems that it’s indicative to me and I don’t want to even say American culture, but because it’s a worldwide thing. You’ve been on tour all over the world of people wanting to have stuff. I don’t know. It’s this interesting part of the human psyche of, “I want more stuff. I want more photos. I want more videos. I want more memories.”
Especially entertainment and podcasts, music, YouTube videos, most of the things that people consume are more or less free. It fits into that as well. You go to a concert, it’s free for you to take the whole thing and take it back home with you. It’s crazy.
There’s a time and a place for that too because I know there have been certain concerts where I thought, “I wish I had been there.” I was grateful that somebody recorded it and I could see what it was like. A, it takes away from that experience for that person and B, a live concert is a feeling that you don’t get by watching it even when it’s professionally recorded. I’ve been to a few concerts that have been shared on Netflix and they’ve had this whole professional team. They’ve got the best quality audio and video and they’re getting the close-ups. They’re making the absolute best attempt at documenting it but watching it on Netflix is nowhere near what it feels like when you’re there.
Part of the experience to me is feeling the music in my body. Whether you’re in front of your amp or you have the instrument in your hand or you’re at a show. There’s such a physiological experience of being with music in person. To your point, Whitney, when you’re watching a Netflix documentary or something like that, it’s not the same as feeling that kick drum in your chest or the bass in your legs or the thimble in your ears when someone’s ripping a high note on a guitar. It’s such a full-body experience when you’re with that.
The feeling of everybody around that amazing moment when the band or artist first comes on stage and everyone starts cheering.
The collective energy is something on both sides of the stage.
It’s such a magical thing that I feel it is becoming more and more important. A, isn’t it true that artists make a good amount of their money from live performances more than records or digital sales or whatever?
It has become one of the largest income streams for modern artists.
That’s a great perk. If you want to give back to your favorite artists, see them live. B, it allows us to connect and all be together in a way that we don’t get as much when we’re online and watching a video on YouTube or Netflix or seeing somebody’s social media. It’s not the same form of connection. We need those in-person experiences more. Also, Jason and I had both experiences together and separately meeting other people at these venues. We’ve started to make friends with other fans and that’s awesome. When you can connect with somebody else that loves the music and you’re there together and then you’re bonded outside of that experience.
I’ve seen that has a lot to a great extent. I played with Bryan Ferry, Roxy Music. He has fans that do exactly that. It became apparent. I got to know a bunch of his fans because they kept on approaching me in all manner of situations. They all know each other. They have a complete community of fans that stick together from all over the world. They know each other and they talk to each other. He’s the focal point, Bryan Ferry. There’s plenty of other stuff that they connect over. He’s the thing that connects to everybody, but it becomes a community that has its own life. I saw that much with his fans, which was amazing, especially because many of them are older generations. In some ways, they were super devoted to that community because they probably didn’t have a whole lot of other community too. Old people in the modern world seem to have less connection.
Interestingly when you talk, I want to double back when you were talking about artists giving away things for free, Quist. Whitney and I talk about that all the time and to put it out there, we as artists give away, especially as this episode is in 2020. Much is for free, YouTube videos, PDFs, all of our social media feeds, our guides, our blog posts, our show. It’s a seemingly never-ending litany of things that we do on our time and our dime to share our hearts, share our gifts. One fascinating thing is that you are doing your music full-time, which is incredible, first of all. To me, it’s incredible in the sense that I know many musicians that are doing full-time has achieved that success in their career but many that are incredibly talented are not doing that. Maybe having a side hustle or have a full-time job and they’re trying to make their music a full-time thing. In this age of as we give away much for free as artists, how have you hacked that? To me, I find it amazing because I’ve been singing for many years and I’ve been doing it on the side and doing regional tours and stuff in the bands that I’ve been in but I was never yet able to translate it to a full-time thing. I’m in admiration and awe of you doing that. I’m curious how you’re able to do that?
Going back to giving away stuff, I’ve been putting out much music and stuff. I have this thing that I call my Jam Fam, my Jam Family.
That’s where your Patreon is all about?Live performances are one of the biggest income streams for modern artists. Click To Tweet
That’s the main thing that brings people to support me on Patreon, for example. It’s the main thing that has made my YouTube channel as successful as it is. I did that while I was touring around the world instead of going to bed or sitting on the tour bus and daydreaming or whatever. I would always make music and put it out. I built up a community that way by putting out much free stuff. I believe in karma and I tried to be of service to many people that eventually something came back. I was focused on being of service with my art. That’s a fine word with my music, let’s say. I was focused on being of service while I was out on tour and all that stuff. I managed to build something up that has become my thing. It’s enabled me to make my music full-time and be selective with who I play with. I’m being grateful for it. Going back to your point, I believe it’s because I gave away much stuff that stuff started coming back. It’s simple karma.
In terms of your artistic capability, we talked about this on a previous episode about identity and how titles and being pigeonholed and people labeling us or maybe how we label ourselves in the world puts us potentially in a certain box how people view us. In relation to that, some guitarists or musicians, they’ll be like, “She’s a blues guitarist or a funk guitarist or jazz guitarist.” As I’ve dove into your musical repertoire, your skillset and the genres that you can play within and what you’re able to do skill-wise can’t be pigeonholed. I’m curious if that was a specific intention as you were learning and playing and becoming more proficient. If you’re like, “I don’t want to box myself and stay to one specific genre. I want to learn all these styles.” What is your approach to that? It’s phenomenal.
There are a couple of sides to it. One is that it was mainly led by passion, being passionate about certain things at certain times. As a teenager, I got into rock and had my first experiences with rock bands and being in a rock band, being in a smelly basement with my friends.
What music were you into?
Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Rolling Stones or whatever, we’re rocking out and smoking cigarettes for the first time and probably getting a bit drunk. It wasn’t Denmark, alcohol was introduced early. I had that whole thing, but we got a bit “clever” about it all and started to jazz it up a bit. I got into hardcore bebop and all that stuff. When you’re young you like a challenge, don’t you? You want to dig into stuff and learn and do that. I’ve nerded out with jazz for a while. All the while I’ve always loved blues because of my dad. I grew up on blues. My dad fed me a lot of blues from the earliest days. I was always doing that jamming with blues.
What was he into? What artist?
Clapton, Stephen Stills, he’s not a blues artist, but he had that vibe. He fed me a lot of British blues explosion stuff. I have a brain fart.
This is the right show to have that happen.
I digested a lot of stuff and my passion was the thing that led me. It was because I was passionate about it. I realized that because I could do all those things, I could get quite a lot of gigs and sessions and whatnot. I could be choosy about it. I could get things, but it was passionate before that. You make it sound great, Jason, to have that situation. The other side of the coin is that it’s probably prevented me from achieving certain things as well. Not being able to be pigeonholed is something that does not do you any favors in the music business.
You’re too broad, in other words?
People don’t know which shelf to put you in and then go, “He’s that. I can put him in front of these people and then it will all be great.” That’s speaking from a label or whatever looking at you, but even also as an audience, you might come into my world and hear me play the blues and you’re like, “I love that vibe.” The next thing you know, I’m playing some weird-ass jazz solo and you’re like, “What’s that? That’s not my cup of tea.” That’s a problem that has probably kept me from getting to a certain level of commercial success in some ways. I have not been strong enough in terms of allowing myself to pursue one easily digestible thing, which is necessary to be understood as an artist unless it’s your actual image. I like to say Frank Zappa. That’s the actual image that he can do all this stuff and he has managed to package it in a completely authentic way. I don’t feel like I’ve done that yet. I haven’t found a way to package myself in a way that fully makes it digestible to the outside world. Do you know what I mean?
I do. It’s interesting because as you were riffing, Zappa was in my brain before you even said the words. In terms of Top 40 radio play, one wouldn’t think of a Frank Zappa or someone in his level of incredible creative acumen. In terms of musicians who know Zappa’s work, he’s lauded as one of the best. You go up to anybody on the street like, “You’ve got a Zappa record?” Most people wouldn’t even know Zappa’s music.
Myself included. I’m sure I’ve heard it but I don’t know.
He did have one hit song where he got his daughter Moon Unit to sing on it and it’s called Valley Girl. That was, I believe, his most successful.
I was going to guess it was Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow song.
He’s got many other songs that are more famous. In terms of musicians, he made many songs.
It also reminds me of going back to concerts. Jason and I are big fans of Ray LaMontagne and it’s interesting because his music has changed a lot. He plays with a lot of different genres. He’s done country. He does a lot of folk. He does rock and roll, psychedelic. It’s been fascinating. I’ve been to a number of his concerts and oftentimes people will be annoyed. They’re like, “I didn’t like it. He didn’t play any of his old songs.”
He didn’t play the hits.
In my head, he said that at a couple of his concerts that I’ve been to, he’s like, “I’m not going to play Jolene or whatever big songs are.” You can see it’s almost like irritated because he’s anticipating that people are going to be annoyed and he’s trying to set a boundary. That’s cool. The same thing is true with a lot of artists. I also think of Coldplay. I remember Coldplay came out and then over the years, their music has evolved in different directions. People were like, “I don’t like them anymore because of their new music.” In my head, I’m thinking, “Why would we put them in a box and not allow somebody to evolve?” As human beings, we’re always evolving. If you’re a true fan, you’re in it not for that particular music, but them as a person. For me with Ray LaMontagne, he has an incredible voice and soul and no matter what he does, even if I don’t love it as much as some of his other music, I’m in it for him. I get excited when artists play around with different types and sounds and all of that. It also irritates me because it’s cool that you do a lot of different types of music.
The way around it is to have authenticity, which is to truly be yourself and put yourself out as yourself. If you think about The Beatles, how different did they sound when they started to when they ended? They were unmistakably The Beatles and themselves.
What do you think it was that made them unmistakably The Beatles despite the change in music?
It was that combination of talents and personalities that fit. I’m not going to compare Coldplay to The Beatles, but I will say that when I think of a modern band where you take four guys and you put those guys together. There’s a thing about the way that they play and interact as human beings. That makes it such a well-oiled machine. Coldplay has that. Whether you like them or not, they fit together as a band and then they managed to come up with stuff that’s like, “Okay.” Whether you like it or not, that’s a well-oiled song.
Do you miss that, Quist, in terms of this wonderful jam fam and the Patreon and the music you’re creating for yourself? Do you miss being in a full-time band or part of that consistent family as opposed to being a solo artist? What is that relationship like for you solo versus being in that tight-knit family?
Yes is the answer to do I miss it? I am working on getting to a point where I feel like I can make that happen in a good way. I’m putting out a crap ton of music. I’m still focused on creating and making sure that there’s out enough there that I can make it possible for me to go out and do proper gigs and have a band family like that again. There are a few things that I love more than being in a band and going out, playing with brothers and sisters every night. It’s the best. I’m a dad and that’s the best but aside from that, it’s close to second. I can’t. It’s a feeling and a connection that if you’re out with people that you like and are having a good time with that connection between you and a group of people. The people you’re playing for is one of the greatest things I’ve experienced in life. I’m going to keep on trying to replicate that situation and make it even better.
I want to ask you a deep question about fatherhood. Being a dad and you lit up when you even mentioned them. I could see in your face changing and light up thinking about them.
Do you have multiple kids?
I have three.
How has that colored your relationship to monetizing your art? At least in my mind and certainly talking to other artists, there’s sometimes a lot of fear around having a family because they’re like, “It will take away from my art. How can I support my family?” It’s a major concern for people in terms of maybe a limiting belief system that being an artist and raising a family is somehow not compatible. I hear a lot of things that are like, “I need to be miserable because that makes me write good songs or stuff like that.” Has that added a layer of pressure or expectation? How has that changed or not changed your relationship to your music and your business being a father and having a family?
I see it mainly from a positive viewpoint, which is that it has increased my focus on making stuff work. I never gave myself a B plan. I never had a B plan. I worked hard and did whatever I could to make things work. It’s not been easy. Also since moving to LA to be perfectly honest, my wife is from Scotland. She’s not allowed to work because she’s here on a spouse visa. We are here on my artist visa, and I have to look after the five of us with nothing but music-making. It has worked so far. It was a big muscle. When I left the UK, I was touring and I was doing lots of big gigs and I still have been going out and doing large size work like that. I have come to a place where I can afford to do my own thing. I’ve been focused on that. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard work. I can feel that it’s a challenge. It’s going much in the right direction that I’m like, “How can I not continue to see what I can make of this situation?” When I reached that milestone that I was able to live off of nothing but my input, that was a big moment. I was like, “You’re going to make something of that.” That’s how I get up. I try and make something. You’ve got to make crap happen in the limited time that you have.
Even your shirt says, “Do what you love and then F the rest.” Do you make those?
I was going to say non-guitar players.
We sell those. It’s one of my favorite quotes from maybe you’ve seen Little Miss Sunshine, the scene towards the end where the girl is at the pageant and they all join her. At some point, some character goes saying, “Do what you love and F the rest.” I don’t know, it’s such a powerful thing. It’s a reminder and I’ve probably taken it slightly out of context, but I try and live by that. Not saying that don’t care about all things, but in your life, do what you love and then all the stuff that doesn’t matter. It’s a lot of stuff in life that we spend our time doing that does not matter. I am forever trying to cut out everything that isn’t necessary. By that, I don’t mean not looking after people or not caring about your friends or whatever. I mean trying to continue to be focused on crap that matters in life. To answer your question, that’s probably the main thing that’s happened for me becoming a parent. I’ve realized that there are only many hours in the day. Learn how to say no, which I’m still working on. I’m getting better at saying no to a lot of stuff. To focus on what’s the right thing to be doing and spending your time as efficiently as you possibly can because you don’t have that much time.
One thing that we talk a lot about on this show is social media, which can be incredibly distracting. I blew my mind by looking at my screen time metrics on the iPhone. I haven’t looked at it in a while and it was a lot worse than I thought and I’m glad.
Do you care to share? I’ll share mine if you do. I also had a similar experience. I was like, “This is bull crap.” My lack of awareness around how much my face is in this thing? It was interesting though because to piggyback on what Whitney was saying, Quist, we were on a panel for mindfulness and technology and there was a gentleman there, a new friend of ours, Tommy Sobel from this company called Brick. He encourages people to have a healthier relationship with their devices. He said one woman he was coaching had an addiction to the point where she was on her phone over eleven hours a day. I was like, “That’s excessive.” My statistics popped up and it was 5 hours and 11 minutes. I’m like, “Jesus Christ.” Awareness in my mind that five hours.
They split it up to productivity, social media, whatever. Some of them where social media is 2.5 hours or whatever and you’re like, “What?” What could I have been doing in 2.5 hours that might have made more of an impact?” It’s hard because the lines are blurred with what you guys do, what I do. You can see real connection and results and growth in your business and all these more grownup things from interacting with this whole thing. It’s like, “There’s no way that I’m not doing it.” You’ve got to do it. It’s an addiction. I am 100% addicted to that thing and as we speak, learning to deal with that and giving myself, for example, I slipped back into allowing myself to be in bed and pick up my phone in the morning and read my emails.
I stopped doing that again. I slipped into it in and I was like, “That is a bad habit.” As soon as you start the day, all these things you’re thinking about. I was like, “What? Why do you want to walk around with that in your head?” It’s because of that thing. You become addicted to it. It’s like, “I haven’t checked my phone in five hours that I’ve spent in bed sleeping. I’m bound to have X number of new Patreons or emails.” It’s like dopamine hits. You’re like, “I sold these many records or got these many Patreons.” You’d get a dopamine hit and you know you’re going to get something because it’s been five hours. You open it up and it’s addiction. It’s clear addiction. Do you know what I mean?
It’s a distraction.
My curiosity as a father and children are in a different frame of mind with technology than all of us were. We’re probably all the same generation or so. With your children, what’s your frame on letting them use iPhones, iPads, computers? How do you regulate or encourage a healthy usage for them when there’s much pressure for kids to get all of those devices younger? You see 5, 6-year-olds with iPads and iPhones.
We’re old school.
You are. What does that mean?
It means that my oldest, who’s the only one who has a phone, which she got for her eleventh birthday, she was the last person in her class to get a phone.
How did she deal with that?
She was fine. She’s like, “I understand.” Not to blow my own horn, but she’s amazing. She was like, “It’s okay.” She understands where we come from. I’ve sat her down and had serious conversations with her but not trying to be too dark about it. For example, some tests came out and some research because this is all happening. People don’t know what the effects are for later on. They do know that, for example, the self-mutilation and suicide rates especially for girls in the ages of like my daughter is about to be that age, fourteen-year-old girls. The suicide rates and self-mutilation rates and stuff like that have skyrocketed since everybody got phones and since they’re all connected. People don’t just go to school and have that pressure from their peer groups and stuff, they go home, the pressure is still there. It’s on TikTok or WhatsApp or whatever. They’re on together. If somebody is getting bullied, they’re not getting bullied six hours a day. They’re getting bullied 24 hours a day and it’s freaking horrendous especially for girls who the whole group thing can get a little cattier. For boys, it’s like, “Was it porn?” one other thing that boys are more interested in whereas girls have more of the social clique, all that stuff becomes a thing quick.
Plus, they also tend to have a lot more pressure about their appearances, the comparison trap in these platforms.
That’s something I think much about the whole comparison thing because I’m a grown-ass man. I can feel the comparison thing happening.
Yeah. You look Instagram or whatever and you’re like, “That guy went there and did this and he’s got this amazing whatever.” I can feel my emotions being tugged that and being like, “I haven’t got this thing,” whatever and all that stuff. How is an eleven-year-old girl going to deal with those emotions when I’m being slightly rocked by it? I have the tools to deal with it.
They don’t have the tools and they’re also not fully mentally developed at that age.
I’m acutely aware of that. I’m old school with all that stuff. My oldest daughter, she’s not got any public profiles anywhere of anything. We do allow her to be on TikTok or private things with her friends. That is all these people do. They’re making dances and lip-syncing to things and it’s quite creative. She caught some TikTok stuff that she showed me and I was like, “That’s the cut.” The way that they do it is impressive.
Are you on TikTok?
The thing is a company approached me to advertise TikTok on Instagram. I was like, “I’ve been leaning into the whole paid promotion thing. Sponsorships.” In general, I thought, “I’ll do a post and get paid a bit of money.” For that, I had to start a TikTok account so I did. I went on it and I was like, “What are we doing here? What are these people doing?”
There are a lot of reports coming out about how great it is for musicians. Have you seen anything skyrocketing some of their careers?
I have seen that. I’ve also seen the opposite. Some people are saying that Lizzo and Nas X are the two first people that rose primarily through TikTok. I’ve heard some people say that it was a fluke. People don’t care about the music there. They care about seeing each other dancing. They’re saying that the music is not real. I don’t know that’s maybe being negative. I saw somebody say that and then they said that Triller is the new thing where there’s more of a focus around the music.
This is an app, Triller?
It’s an app, which I opened up. I’ll show it to you because I got curious, but that thing I read about saying that TikTok is probably not going to be that great for musicians. It was probably written by somebody from the church. I’m probably talking crap.
It’s a music focus thing, Quist?
Yeah. It’s similar to TikTok, to be honest. When I opened it last I was like, “This looks like TikTok.” It’s still somebody doing a short thing. Maybe it’s slightly different. Check it out.
It’s when stories came about you started with Snapchat and then all these other platforms have stories. Also, live video. It was Meerkat who came out, which nobody ever even talks about Periscope. Meerkat, remember that? It was one of the first and then Periscope and I don’t even know if Periscope. Is it still being used for Twitter?Part of building a community is the willingness to put out free stuff. Click To Tweet
I don’t know, maybe still, I did a YouTube live thing with somebody who was quite big on Periscope for a while and I asked him and he sounded like it was still going, but I’m not sure. I remember when it came out and then that’s all it is.
Facebook Live had taken over. I feel like TikTok Live is becoming bigger. All these live streaming platforms and I feel like that’s happening with these apps and all the TikTok copycats and who’s going to stick around the longest? It’s interesting with Snapchat, I don’t use it much. I use it with my sister or the two of us use it as a communication platform, but I don’t watch things there. I rather look at Instagram Stories.
I do that too. Instagram is my go-to in terms of connection and stuff. Every time I go to Facebook I realized there’s a lot of stuff I do not see but I don’t know, I cut out Facebook. In terms of my private Facebook, which was my great connector to lots of things. When I decided not to look at it anymore, I was like, “It feels good.” It’s time to do some other stuff. I’ve become non-caring about what goes on Facebook and it feels somewhat lovely, liberating. That was the word I was looking for.
TikTok is what’s taking up most of my screen time. I use that to watch things more than any other platform, more than YouTube. I barely ever watch on YouTube anymore. I don’t find Instagram as stimulating. TikTok is mentally-stimulating because it’s guaranteed to be interesting, funny or educational. There’s much content and then it’s short. It’s only 15 to 60 seconds.
If I want something long-form, Netflix or something. Slightly less long-form, YouTube.
It’s designed to be addictive. I have a limit set. Every fifteen minutes, my phone tells me that my time is up on TikTok. I’ve noticed myself, I’m addicted that I press the ignore button and I have to be present. Most days, I will sit there and watch TikTok for an hour straight. Honestly, it’s like my way of escaping and taking a break. When I want to take a break, I’ll get on TikTok and it’s satisfying.
I’m lost when it comes to that stuff. I don’t even know where to start. Where do you start with you see something on the front page and then that takes you in a certain direction?
That’s what’s brilliant about it. This is also the reason why it’s addicting is that TikTok is 2 or 3 sections. There’s a follow, you can follow people on there but I never go into the follow section. Unlike on Instagram, it’s all about your feed and then you can go into Discovery. It’s the opposite on Instagram where I’ll mainly look at my feed and every once in a while look at Discovery. On TikTok, I mainly look on their discovery page, which is called the For You page, which is customized. They see the trends in which the things that you’re watching, liking and sharing. They’ll notice that and then they’ll start to give you recommendations like YouTube does. I don’t follow people necessarily. I like to see the discovery because it works well and there is a search function on TikTok but I never search for things.
What would you search for?
You can search for vegan or you could search for wellness or whatever you’re interested in or you can search for a specific creator. For me, 90% plus of the time I spend on TikTok is in this For You page because it’s well done. It’s fascinating. I’m fascinated by what I see there. What I find most interesting about TikTok is it’s open. It’s not about celebrities. It’s about your average person creating content. That’s where it’s power is. I also think that it can change quickly like any of the other social media platforms. It empowers the average person no matter how old they are, where they live, or what they look like. Anybody can create content on there that can become interesting and be seen. Your chances of being seen in TikTok are high, higher than any other platform. You can go on there and you’ll see somebody that’s posted once or twice ever and maybe their video got a million views. You don’t see that on Instagram or YouTube. It takes much time to become developed. I enjoy that but that’s temporary.
Are you guys on TikTok?
We have individual accounts of which mine are goofy things with my bulldog. I want to do more on TikTok simply because I have a little bit of improv and stand-up comedy background and weirdness. It interjects into our other stuff, but I feel like TikTok is this good reservoir, if you will, for me to be wacky. I feel like that’s, to me, if I’m going to keep using it, it’s going to being a total weirdo, which I am.
It’s expression and creativity from that platform that you don’t see as much on others.
I love that because it is funny and it’s all awesome. That’s maybe why I’m not attracted to it because I have some side like that. I’m not good at presenting that. I don’t know where to start.
There was something tangential, but we talked about veganism. You had a tenure comparison post where I thought you mentioned going vegan. Is that true? Were you vegan at some point? You are vegan or you mentioned something about it.
I probably would have mentioned that. I have been vegan for quite a few years. I’m not like what you would say the fastest vegan or whatever. I never eat any animals or anything, I haven’t done that for many years. If I’m on tour and there’s a cheese pizza, I’ll take a slice. That’s about it. I’ll have the occasional egg or cheese but I don’t seek it out. When it’s there and there’s nothing else, I might do it. It doesn’t make me proud or feels good. I am for all intents and purposes, a vegan.
What’s your whole relationship to that in terms of why you chose it? Is your family down with that?
Funny you mentioned my family because it was my mother who spawned the whole situation. I’ve been vegetarian for several years. I’ve always had a foot in that boat anyway, but my mom got diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, a rare one. That was a crazy time in my life. I was meant to play the Royal Albert Hall with Bryan Ferry. He got ill, he had to cancel the gig. We had done the soundcheck and everything. We were in there and there were thousands of people waiting outside the Royal Albert Hall. They had to cancel it. That didn’t have in that gig but our parents were in town to see the show and everything. That didn’t happen. That was a downer. My mom told me that she had this autoimmune disease and she was crap scared and she cried. I saw her being proper scared for the first time.
I shouldn’t be telling you about this because she’s been weirdly secretive about it. I’ve realized, but it’s okay to say this. She went into a situation where she dug into how she could fix this situation. The thing that seems to have the most success in terms of reversing or keeping it at bay is veganism.
Did she go vegan or plant-based because of this?
I thought that’s great. I will join you and support you. That’s why I did it. I went all the way to veganism was to try and help my mom go through this thing and to try and help share resources and stuff like that. She came over here and I drove her up north of San Francisco. There was a get together where she took a ten-day thing where she learned a bunch of stuff about veganism and diet and all that stuff. I wanted to support her in that and that’s why I dove into it to throw her all the resources that I possibly could. It’s been a great thing. I’m happy that she’s still doing it and I was still doing it. I don’t have any ambition of not being vegan. I’m not a preachy vegan. I hate the fact that vegans get the rep that they get. It’s freaking annoying. The way it makes other people feel, they immediately feel threatened because they feel judged by you or you’re holy or the now or whatever. I believe that it’s the thing. It’s like Joaquin Phoenix, his speech, how cool was that?
You could hear a pin drop in the room.
What’s he going to say next?
The way he said that and the way he said about humans acting like they own all the species. That it’s all about humans. We’ve gotten to a crappy place with that. The way he expresses that was powerful. I believe in all of that stuff strongly, but I don’t put that leg first when I meet people because there are still many people that feel threatened by people and judged by people when they put that thing forward. I have enough things about my quirky personality to repel people. I don’t need veganism to be one of them or whatever. You guys are vegans?
It’s our brands with Whitney having spearheaded her Eco-Vegan Gal brand and with me doing the vegan chef thing. We’ve both been champions because it’s affected our health but also our relationship to the earth, nature, and animals and all of the reasons.
We also didn’t want to make this show about veganism and people will ask us. That’s usually one of the first questions we had?
“Is it a vegan show?” We’re like, “No,” but we talk about it.
They can both be a good thing and a bad thing. Going back to being pigeonholed, if you can pigeonhole yourself in that, it’s like boom. You have an audience and you know where to put your stuff. On the other hand, you’re cutting out many other people.
I feel like it comes up organically and it comes up when and where it wants to, but it’s not the sole focus because to us it’s about the kaleidoscopic journey of what it means to be human. Hence, this beautiful conversation we’re having with you. Let’s talk about family, fears, identity, art, and life and being here. I have a curious query for Quist. That’s the name of the episode, The Curious Query for Quist. When we met at a Patreon event, you were wearing a cat hat. My friend, does this mean that you are a cat guy? Do you have felines at home? What is your relationship to the cat world? I know you’re wearing that hat for a reason. What’s the story?
The story is not that profound. I like a good hat. I wear hats all the time.
Do you know that Jason is wearing a cat hat?
I anticipated you would wear your cat hat. I thought we were going to have the cat hat brotherhood.
I thought you might wear a hat like that. I thought, “Let’s not double up.” The real truth of that hat is I went to the shop in which I bought it and said, “I need a new of these. I need a replicate of this situation because I love it but it’s past its prime.” He was like, “Let me look it up. We don’t have anymore. I remember them, but we don’t have them anymore.” I’m like, “I can’t find another cat hat.”
What shop was this?
I was up in Westfield in Sherman Oaks.
Did you find another one online or something?
It’s called Lids or something.
The name of the shop. It feels iconic simply because first meeting you had it and then in many of your jam videos, you were wearing that hat.
I know it’s become a thing. I still put it on when I’m doing videos because it’s like the cat in the hat.
It’s iconic, seriously.
It’s become a thing where everybody’s commenting about the hat and some people don’t like it, but most people think it’s hilarious because it looks like a cat. It’s looking at you when I put my head down to play.
It’s got to be in one of your photos.
I figured I’d ask if you were a cat dad. I didn’t want to assume you were a cat dad. Immediately upon meeting you, I’m like, “I like this guy already. I like him already because of his hat.”
I have to say I’m a dog man.
Do you have a dog at home?
I don’t because I’m allergic to dogs, but I grew up with dogs my whole life until I moved away from my parents.
When you see them on the street, you mob them?
I’ve learned that they make me have difficulty breathing. I try to stay away from them, but I love dogs. I’ve had dogs my whole life. I don’t know why my parents did that to me, to be honest.
Looking for the iconic cat hat? It’s sick. It’s the best.
Can you say dilapidated? It’s falling apart. It’s past its prime. I’m like, “I need to get a new cat hat.”
You should make your own for your merchandise. You should make your cat hat.
Funnily enough, I bought a hat that I nearly wore. I started to mess around with the top to see what I can do with it because I didn’t want it to say what it was saying but it’s nice. I’m working on getting a new hat going. I should just put eyes on it, shouldn’t I? It’s the same situation.
I get a couple of sticky eyes.
That’s what should be happening.
Quist, you’ve got some music that you’re going to be releasing on the way and you were telling me you’ve got a whole record of good stuff and I was like, “Is this original? Is this a cover?” Tell us about the music that’s coming out so people can dig into your new stuff.
I have quite a few albums lined up. I have been brewing and not releasing for a while. I’ve got quite a few different branches of what I like coming out. I’ve got a check coming out which is it’s a jam that I had. It’s a bit hip hop. I’ve got an album coming out, which is like loop improvisations that I did because of what I do on YouTube is it’s all about improvisation. I want it to put out some stuff that connects to that world. I’m trying to because I stayed away from Spotify. I was always like, as somebody who makes music, I thought it’s not a good deal for a music maker in general. I’ve been against it a little bit. I finally gave in, I was like, “Okay.” Everybody listens to Spotify, anybody who’s anybody. People will always look somebody up and go.
It’s like the Google of music. Either go to YouTube or you go to Spotify, I was like, “I can’t go on like this. I need to put out more music and have it be on Spotify.” Putting out a bunch of stuff that is also designed to bridge the gap between the momentum I have on YouTube and put it out into the other parts of the music worlds or whatever. I’m putting those improvisations, which is something that I could be doing live. I’m going out to do a one-man loop thing. I get booked for these shows sometimes to do that. That’s connected to a thing I’m doing, which is that loop situation. I’m working on a few different albums. I’m hoping to put out one that has a proper full-on band involved as well. We’ll see what’s best.
Maybe you could ask somebody in your audience if they could make a hat. I always love it when creators do that. They’re like, “Is anyone in the audience capable of making this?” Somebody will produce something incredible.Do what you love, and pay no mind to the rest. Click To Tweet
Someone would remake that hat for you.
It’s funny you say that. I know who I could ask because I had somebody who when I played in Kansas City or it was Columbus, Ohio. I can’t remember. Somebody came up to me and they had taken a picture that somebody had taken and made a whole painting out of it and they presented it to me. When I was on tour in America, I was like, “Thank you, guys. I’m not sure what to do.” I was like, “That’s amazing.” They proceeded to ask permission to produce a purse with that same image on it. They produce a Quist image purse. They also have them David Bowie and all the proper celebrities, but they wanted to make a merch item with my face on it. I was like, “Sure. Go on.”
Maybe you can commission that person to make hats and you can sell them because you sell merch. The shirt too because that shirt is good.
This shirt is getting a little bit popular.
I want to get one.
Let me get you one.
It will confound people because they won’t understand what that chord means. I have to explain it. The people that know will immediately know.
It’s a good conversation starter.
What you were saying, I felt a little bit not to brag about what I was doing, I was at a friend’s place who has a charity called Neighboring Light, which is amazing. They recruited a bunch of people, myself included, to make sandwiches for homeless people. We made a bag full of those cookies, chips, banana and a well-made sandwich. All this stuff and we put it all together for a few hours. I was wearing this shirt and somebody was like, “What does that mean?” I was like, “This is an F chord.” Taking her food, but then she still didn’t get it.
I didn’t even know it was an F chord, but I assumed.
When I tell you it’s an F chord, does it resonate with you?
It resonated before that because I filled in the blank. It logically makes sense that’s what that chord would be.
Sometimes you think that something’s super obvious all like that. Something connects with other people and it ends up that it doesn’t at all.
You can make it an educational opportunity. You can tell people about music chords, but then you can also inspire them to follow their passions, which is neat.
That’s what I’m trying to do.
I will probably be hitting you up about a cat-themed band at some point and auditioning for you. I’m putting that out into the universe. You talked about visualizing it. We have to undo all the damage that the movie Cats did because it was horrifying. I saw enough of it.
What do you mean you saw enough of it?
I saw clips online. It was cringy. We’re not going to do a movie review.
I like it when movies are cringy. It makes me want to see them to see how bad they are. I want to see that.
We’re going to tip the scales. We’re going to balance the scales, Quist. We’re going to do it.
I’d love to do something with you.
Seriously, we’re going to figure it out.
Even it can be a one-time special event like you used to do, Jason, that school night mash-up.
I’ll have to show you the School Night Mashup sometime, Quist. There are deep rabbit holes, deep musical rabbit holes.
Is that on YouTube?
The whole 2.5-hour concert’s on Facebook. I’ll dig that up. It’s there in the annals of Facebook timeline with all the other stuff. Quist, thanks for being here. You’re an absolute pleasure.
It was a total pleasure. Thank you.
Enjoy the rest of your kombucha.
- Patreon – Quist’s account
- YouTube – Quist’s channel
- Eco-Vegan Gal
- Neighboring Light
About Jacob “Quist” Quistgaard
Quist (Jacob Quistgaard) has toured the world for the past decade, most recently in his own name and as lead guitarist with British rock legend and Rock n Roll Hall of Famer Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music), featuring on his album Avonmore, alongside Nile Rodgers, Mark Knopfler, Johnny Marr, Flea and Marcus Miller.
Quist is known for his popular YouTube jams and (mostly) instrumental music, which has garnered more than 100 million views on YouTube. Over years of touring and simultaneously posting his trademark jam tracks and improvisations from all over the world, Quist has found his own audience and a rising profile as a solo artist on a unique path. He continues to expand and interact with his online “jam fam” through original music, jam tracks, improvisations, Wednesday Warm-ups and guitar remixes. Quist has become synonymous with musical improvisation – and he deeply believes in the healing powers of learning how to express oneself through music.
His 2017 album Trigger features bass player Guy Pratt (Pink Floyd, Madonna, Michael Jackson) and drummers Dave De Rose (Mark Ronson) and Cherisse Osei (Simple Minds) and he will be releasing several full-length albums in 2020, starting with the collection Loop Improvisations, Vol. 1 on February 28.
Quist was born in Copenhagen Denmark, moving to London as a teenager as he received a scholarship to study jazz guitar at the Royal Academy of Music. He has been based in Los Angeles since 2014.
A professional performer since the age of 7 (first as a child dancer performing regularly and touring internationally with the Royal Danish Ballet), Quist picked up his dad’s acoustic guitar at age 6. This lead to him eventually giving up his 24/7 ballet life and becoming a fully fledged guitar nerd practicing non-stop and forming his first bands as a teenager.
Fast forward through many failures and some success along the way, Quist’s credits include Little Mix, Missy Elliott, Pixie Lott, Jamie Cullum, Andy Grammer, Alison Moyet, Valerie June, Danay Suarez and many more. He has worked alongside numerous legendary musicians, such as Waddy Wachtel, Lee Sklar, Chris Spedding, Fonzi Thornton (Aretha Franklin, Chic), Neil Jason (Paul McCartney) and T.M. Stevens (James Brown) to name a few. He has performed all over the world, at venues like the Hollywood Bowl, Royal Albert Hall, Ryman Auditorium and Crocus City Hall (Moscow), at major festivals like Glastonbury and Coachella (with Paul McCartney at the side of the stage!) and he has recorded everywhere from Abbey Road to Bryan Ferry’s Studio 1. In addition he has performed on prime time TV & radio shows around the world, such as Jools Holland and BBC Breakfast. He recently did a run of shows in his own name – including performances at the 5th International Guitar Festival in Cartagena, Colombia.
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