Managing, singing, writing, playing, and producing your own music takes a lot of time, effort, and creativity. What is the process for producing an album? How does one become a professional musician and artist? How do you stay confident in front of crowds night after night? Connor Frost, who manages, sings, writes, and plays his own music with his band, Dizzy Bats, explains, “Just go out there and do it, repetition really helps.”
Having grown up playing music and being surrounded by a musically-talented family, standing in front of an audience is nothing new to Connor, but he continues to channel all of his energy into his performances and he makes sure he is always learning something from each new experience. Fresh off the release of his new EP, Appendectomy, Connor has a lot to share about his experiences pursuing music full-time and how he got to where he is today.
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?
CF: Following your passion. I do my best not to worry about the different molds that society has created for us, and instead just roll with it and ride that passion wave.
CJ: What did you major in at Connecticut College and how did you determine what to study?
CF: Going into Connecticut College I knew that I wanted to study Chinese, so when I was applying to colleges, I looked for programs that had strong Chinese programs. I also knew that I wanted to study music but I wasn’t really trying to dive into a conservatory atmosphere. I was, however, looking for schools that would allow me to be involved musically, so the small liberal arts college system appealed to me.
CJ: Did you study abroad? What was your big takeaway from studying abroad and do you think it was worth it?
CF: I studied in Beijing for the spring semester of my junior year. There are so many takeaways, but I would say by the end of that experience, I considered myself “fluent” in the Chinese language, which was ultimately my goal. I think it was also an incredible cultural learning experience. Just crossing the street in China is an adventure every day. Immersing myself in that type of environment that was totally different from what I grew up in was pretty great.
CJ: What or who inspired you to become a musician/artist?
CF: I grew up playing music. My mom is a professional pianist. My dad is a singer. They’re both teachers, they both teach music. My mom works at Sacred Heart University as a teacher there, she’s also an organist at a church. My dad also teaches. So I grew up around music, but it wasn’t until college that I realized that music is what I want to do. My parents made me continue music up to a certain age, but I never felt like they forced it on me. It was a mix of being surrounded by it, but also the great experiences that I had in college and starting my own band made me realize that this is what I want to do.
CJ: How did you know you wanted to be a musician/artist professionally?
CF: I didn’t really know. Out of college I was a full-time teacher for 2 years, the first year in Connecticut and then in North Jersey, and my reasoning for that was that I wanted to be in or around New York because that’s where my band was and still is. I really love teaching, realized that teaching full-time and doing the music thing full-time just wasn’t a healthy lifestyle and it was causing a lot of unneeded stress. I ultimately decided last February that I wanted to remove myself from full-time teaching and dedicate that time to music.
CJ: You recently went on a national tour. When on tour, how do you stay motivated on-stage night after night of performing?
CF: I put all of my energy into the performance. Seeing the country is great, but at the end of the day, you’re on the road for one reason and that’s the performance. I try not to worry about things that are out of my control, which is easier said than done. Seeing different cities is pretty cool, too, but I put everything into the show. Whether I’m playing for 1 person or for 50 people, it doesn’t matter, I just try to make the performance the best it can be.
CJ: Have you ever forgotten a song lyric on-stage and what do you do when that happens?
CF: Short answer, yes. I’ve mixed up verses. I think only the really hardcore Dizzy Bats fans notice, so it’s not a really big thing. I’ll definitely laugh about it, though.
CJ: Do you have a pre-show ritual?
CF: I don’t really, but I probably should. I just try to eat well and not right before performing.
CJ: What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from being a musician/artist?
CF: I think throughout all of my song-writing, I was really concerned with how my music would be received amongst my friends, new fans, and family. In the beginning, it was as if I was trying to write for someone else. I was trying to write to this group of people – whoever they were, and I wasn’t even sure who they were really. Lyrically, I was trying to make my songs really accessible as well.
Now, I truly just write for myself. I’ve stopped worrying about whether the record will sell or if someone will like a song or not. The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that you should write for yourself and be true to yourself, otherwise the art loses authenticity and meaning.
CJ: How do you overcome self-doubt and stage fright?
CF: Just doing it more and more. I grew up performing so I had a lot of experience on stage. I do get anxious about some shows, though. For example, our first Dizzy Bats show, which was a couple of years ago now, I was crazy nervous. Last year we were playing a show every weekend from January to April, and by the end of it performing was second nature. There were some nerves but more excitement and positive energy than anything else. Just go out there and do it, repetition really helps.
CJ: You write, sing, and play your own music. What is your songwriting process?
CF: It really depends. It’s tough for me to pick a time to sit down and just write a song. It doesn’t really work like that. I get ideas for songs at really inconvenient times, usually right before I’m going to bed, which is a horrible time to get a song idea, or while stuck in traffic on the GWB. I usually come up with a melody first, and then I take that melody and mess around with the guitar, and then I’ll put lyrics to it and take it to my guitarist, Kyle, who will come up with additional guitar parts. Then the whole band will flesh it out from there.
If I start writing a song and the song doesn’t write itself, then it’s probably not meant to be. If I have to spend a lot of time thinking about the song, then it’s probably not going to happen, or perhaps I just have a horrible attention span.
CJ: What advice do you have for youth who want to be professional musicians?
CF: Write for yourself and don’t worry about how your music is going to be received. In the end, if you’re not happy with your music and you’re not stoked about what you’re putting out, it’ll be hard for others to be excited about it. If you want to be an indie rock artist, don’t let the empty room discourage you.
CJ: What does a day in your life look like?
CF: A typical day involves waking up and now eating breakfast which I never usually did. I’ll work on some music, whether it’s Dizzy Bats or other projects I’m involved in. During the day I’ll have rehearsals, at night I tutor, and then I’ll work on more music, read, and watch TV. Every day is different which is really cool.
CJ: What was the inspiration behind Appendectomy?
CF: I had an appendectomy that went all wrong due to mediocre doctors and poor opinions. I ended up back in the hospital after the appendectomy because of post-surgery complications, so during that time I was going through a lot.
So I started writing this song which is a little bit about missing this girl and also about putting things into perspective. I found myself whining and crying when I was bedridden, but I realized at the end of the day I was going to walk out of that hospital, which was more than a lot of patients can say.
CJ: How long did it take to write, sing, and produce Appendectomy?
CF: We toured the songs for half a year, from January to May. We went into the studio in May and I would say we spent four total days in the studio for five songs – one of the songs didn’t make it on to the EP. The mixing and mastering was in June. From learning the songs to getting the final tracks was a 6 month process. It can be shorter than that, but it just happened this way.
CJ: What activities were you involved in throughout high school? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?
CF: I was very involved with music. After I quit the soccer team my junior year of high school, I decided that music was going to be my focus outside of the classroom. My jazz band teacher in high school really was a source of inspiration. In playing with such strong high school musicians and getting instruction from a great jazz musician, I started to casually think about life as a teacher, as well as a musician.
In college, I played in every single group imaginable, it seemed. I played in the concert band, symphony orchestra, jazz band, I fronted a rock band and funk band, and that’s when I started writing my own tunes. My college band, The Endpiece – that experience made me realize I wanted to go the rock ‘n roll/indie route. Of all the amazing learning experiences that I had, that was one of the most amazing and life changing. I learned so much and there is no way I would be doing what I am doing now without that band.
CJ: You are also the manager of your band. From the business side, how does that influence the creative side?
CF: It doesn’t, except that some songs have been about the frustrations of managing the creative as well as business side of things. They are pretty separate because managing deals with booking shows and PR, so it doesn’t necessarily crossover into the creative world.
CJ: What music are you most influenced by?
CF: I am influenced by all of the genres that I’ve studied. We have a lot of horns in our recordings and I draw influence from all of the experience that I’ve had playing classical and jazz trumpet. I hate classifying our music but if I had to put us in a box: 90’s alternative rock, punk and power pop. Our music is very 90s influenced, which makes sense having been a 90s kid.
CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?
CF: The music is what motivates me, as well as working with kids. Those are two things that I love to do, and I feel so blessed that my life consists of these two passions. I don’t find myself necessarily sitting on the couch trying to find ways to motivate myself. Not at the moment, at least.
CJ: Who is your role model?
CF: It sounds corny, but seeing what my parents have done with music and seeing how happy they are is inspirational.
More recently, the various producers that I’ve worked with – our guitarist, Kyle Joseph, and my buddy Jon Markson – have been the two people on the production front for Dizzy Bats, and in seeing what they do in the studio and what they do with their own music keeps me motivated and inspired. Every time I see them work I am amazed by their knowledge, expertise, and drive. My brother, who I consider to be the most all-around creative person I know, is also someone I look up to. I feel really lucky to be surrounded by such talented friends and family.
CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
CF: Relax, it’s all good.
Check out the lyric video for ‘Batman and the Joker’ below!