Whether they know it or not, millions of people have heard the passionate, melodic music made by New Orleans–based indie-pop band Givers. That’s because nearly every song on Givers’ 2011 debut album, In Light, was licensed for television.
In these tough times for recording artists, licensing can be a financial godsend. Some of Givers’ In Light songs were even licensed multiple times.
“We’ve been fortunate,” singer-guitarist Taylor Guarisco said from somewhere between San Francisco and Portland. “To do music as a job nowadays, it’s a challenge. People pay less and less for music. We’re relying more on touring and these elusive sync deals. They use our songs for commercials. That helps some bands reach the next point.”
Guarisco keeps tabs on Givers’ licensing deals, but he doesn’t dwell on them. “I stay focused on what it means to make these songs,” he said. “If you think about the numbers too much, you’re not the artist you began as. We started this band as just people making songs. We didn’t know where it would go.”
Now in their ninth year as Givers, Guarisco, singer-percussionist Tif Lamson and bassist Josh LeBlanc can look back at several career highlights. In addition to the licensing deals, Givers is signed to the same label as the British neo-folk stars of Mumford & Sons, French synth-pop band Phoenix and Irish alt-pop trio Two Door Cinema Club.
Glassnote released In Light just two years after the band formed in Lafayette, Guarisco’s and Lamson’s hometown. In 2012, something perhaps even more surprising happened. Classic rock star Neil Young praised Givers in his autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream. Young writes: “It sounded like they were in a complete other zone from the rest of music. They blew my mind.”
Givers learned about Young’s compliments when they performed at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. That’s the venue where Young staged his annual Bridge School benefit concerts for decades.
“A friend texted us,” Guarisco said. “‘Did you see Neil Young’s book? You’re in it.’ We were like, ‘What do you mean? We’re in it?’ Neil Young,” Guarisco mused. “He’s the godfather of honest music and lyrics, someone we respect so much.”
Givers’ 2018 activities include the band’s West and East Coast tours. And on September 22, they’ll be home in New Orleans to play NOLA on Tap in City Park.
In August, Givers and Glassnote Records released Movin’ On, an EP recorded at the legendary RCA Studio A in Nashville. They also recorded at Eric Heigle’s studio in New Orleans. The EP is a prelude to Givers’ upcoming third full-length album. Dave Cobb—producer of country stars Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson and Chris Stapleton—co-produced the EP’s Nashville sessions with Heigle and Givers.
With Movin’ On, Givers veer from the sprawling, experimental approach heard in the band’s 2015 album, New Kingdom. Cobb initiated the tighter focus. He entered the picture after demos Givers had recorded in New Orleans made their way to him in Nashville.
“Dave reached out to us,” Guarisco said. “I’d heard of Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton, but I didn’t know who produced them.” Guarisco followed up the contact by checking out Cobb’s production work. He liked what he heard. “Dave does cool things in the fabric of the Nashville sound. We talked on the phone about music and life and our demos. He invited us to RCA Studio A.”
Givers’ and Cobb’s contrasting approach to songwriting complemented each other, Guarisco said. “Dave figures out how to make songs more direct. He has a beautiful, really gracious approach. And he’s got an awesome sense of how to get things moving in the studio.”
For Givers, Movin’ On is a return to the band’s roots. “We started out making upbeat, three-minute to seven-minute pop songs,” Guarisco said. “Then the next record we experimented, taking it in emotional directions. Movin’ On circles back to that pop music feel, but it also throws you a curve here and there. Dave was a part of taking a song to its core. That’s his Nashville approach. We’re a band that’s really into production and getting weird. That’s our forte. It was the perfect balance.”
Despite Givers’ high-profile recordings, licensing deals and international touring, the group remains a working-class band. “We don’t fly around in a private jet,” Guarisco said. “We don’t drive fancy cars to gigs. Any band has to work its way up and push itself. We do a lot of road hours.”
Staying hungry can be a good thing. “One part of me is never satisfied,” Guarisco said. “I don’t think I’ll ever be a person who’s like, ‘Oh, we did it.’ You lose something important if you get to that point. But another part of me is so grateful for what’s here in front of us.”
Check out our exclusive video interview with Givers, only on our YouTube channel.