After her debut, Joanie took me to a fancy dinner in Brooklyn Heights. We were celebrating a few key placements I had pursued—Billboard called Saturant an artist to watch, and Idolator did an interview with her. I was getting a miniature lesson in music PR (along with the trial-by-fire management I was employing), and it was starting to take a small toll on my work with Sam. He wasn’t entirely pleased, either, especially after he caught me making phone calls from the office when he had his door closed. For the first time, however, I got a glimpse of opportunity outside of Sam’s reign, and was surprised to discover how much he had taught me.
It was easy for me to promote Saturant, since I had been friends with Joanie for nearly 20 years and knew she had both the talent and drive. How wonderful that I was in a position to help her, and that she continued to trust my judgment. She had already recorded a couple singles, but Simon got us a free studio session for an EP, and so we began rehearsing songs for her first big launch. Joanie was extremely anxious that the EP would flop, despite things working out quite rapidly in the last few months. “I’m past due for a fuck-up,” she said. But truthfully, 29 years in the making, she was well past due for a payout.
I convinced Joanie to go home to Kansas City for a long weekend. We had the five songs picked out for the studio session, but I wanted her to relax for a few days before we poured everything into the recordings. So, she went to see her parents and sisters in the suburbs, visited her grandmother in the nursing home, and was Talia’s first houseguest. She returned somewhat shaken—her family had no idea about Saturant, which seemed impossible to me given how quickly word spreads in one’s own circles. But sure enough, Joanie went home, was asked no questions about her livelihood, got unsolicited feedback on her “albino boy” haircut, went to church—for “novelty and nostalgia”—and never once mentioned Saturant.
Joanie’s absence gave me time to focus on my actual job. I had some atoning to do, and Sam had just signed a hot new triple threat out of Carnegie Mellon and was submitting the kid for a few leading roles. This guy was just 22 and looked like a 5’9″ Hercules, and the attention he was getting out of the gate had other managers terribly jealous of Sam. Every other call I got was to see if Tyler Weiland could audition—walk-on roles, small movie parts, Off-Broadway plays—but Sam was lobbying for a golden nugget: a musical adaptation of “Julius Caesar.”
When Tyler signed on to play Brutus, I phoned my dad to tell him the good news. Dad owns a small insurance agency in Olathe, KS, and since being widowed, has been running marathons and brewing his own wheat beer. He is glad to hear when I find potential love, or that work is going my way; he even spent a couple hours researching Tyler after we signed him. I updated Dad about Joanie’s recent fortune as Saturant—”Her parents must be so proud of her,” he said before I explained otherwise—then he recounted his last hunting trip, where he got a big deer and made jerky for his employees. We average three calls a week, which never feels like enough.
I met with Joanie and her band for her recording session a couple weeks after she had returned from Kansas. We put down the five tracks in a day-long session, and then before wrapping, she asked if she could record one last song, “just to try something.” Her band was caught off guard, but this song only required the keyboard, which she played herself. It was called “Kansas” and was without question the best song I had heard from her: “You raised me up like prairie grains // But after harvest only dust remains // I am not in Kansas evermore.”
“Kansas” was Saturant’s lead single off her EP of the same title, and after NY Mag likened her to Lykke Li and Zola Jesus, I knew we were set. We tripled her booking fee, and sold out three shows in coming months—the first would be at Bart’s venue, followed by Providence and DC. Joanie called me crying, ever grateful for the pushing and prodding, though I assured her it was her talent that got us here. My dad called me, too—he learned how to set up Google alerts and had read a couple reviews, even downloaded the EP himself. Joanie celebrated in her circles, I celebrated in mine—a fancy dinner with Simon, plus a night out in Williamsburg with Bart and Peter. There were two parents in Kansas who should have been celebrating their daughter’s success as well, but knew nothing of it. I worried how hurt they would be when they heard about that particular song, and I worried more how little Joanie would care.