Of the many acts that come and go through Lawrence, there are always a few that stand out. Ari Herstand’s set Friday night in the Coffeehouse was clearly one of those acts. Mixing acoustic melodies with hip-hop beatboxing, Herstand started with an energy that was sustained throughout the entire night. A one-man show, Herstand displayed his looping skills in several songs, stacking layers of guitars, vocals, trumpets and keyboards on top of each other.Hailing from Madison, Herstand now lives in Minneapolis, where he says the music scene is “phenomenal.” Only 22 years old, Herstand went to the University of Minnesota for a year as a music education/trumpet major, but then transferred to McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minn., where he graduated with a music business degree.
In the few years since, Herstand has made quite a mark on the music scene. What makes many people take interest is the fact that he had a song played during a Real World episode, but that is merely a footnote in terms of his overall music goals.
Herstand’s latest release is a live album, “First Take,” which came out in February. “I recorded it about a year ago, at a live show in Minneapolis,” he said. “I’m just about to start my next studio album.”
Herstand performed alone Friday night, although he brings out his band for other, bigger shows. “I’ll bring the band out, maybe once or twice a month,” he said. “I still do all the looping stuff, we just kind of integrate it into the band. I love having the guys around me; it’s more relaxing, we can rock out together. But the solo show is nice as well, I feel like I can connect more with the individuals in the crowd,” he added.
The show was full of stories and jokes, as in one song, when Herstand recalled the trauma he caused his parents when he decided to be a musician. “You know, Ari, doctors make a lot of money, you should consider it,” he quoted his mother as saying in the song.
Herstand also played a song that will be featured in an upcoming episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” He revealed that the song was actually inspired by an episode of the show, and then joked that he hoped the show’s executives didn’t find out, as they might want to get some money out of him for the inspiration.
Managing his musical career by himself is something Herstand takes pride in. “Because of the downfall of the ‘record industry,’ I’m really not looking to sign to a major record label anytime soon, if at all,” he said. “I’m really happing building a grassroots base. Once my new album comes out, that’s when I’m going to do my first full-out national tour.”
“A lot of younger bands, starting off, have that goal of being signed to a record label, and they think they’re going to be superstars after that. But really, signing to a label is not the end-all by any means. A lot of the independent groups that build up grass-roots will stay around longer,” he said.
Apparently being heard during a Real World episode is not enough to satisfy this musician for life. “I’ve kind of set a couple life goals, that if I follow those it should keep me on track,” he said.
“One is I want to make a musical impact in history. Also, I want to make a dent in the human world with my music. Music is a very powerful thing, and I’m very socially aware with a lot of my music, and it’s something that can bring people together and change the world.