Fisher is the first music success story of the Internet.
The duo’s songs have been streamed and downloaded from various Internet sites nearly 2,000,000 times in the last year, and they are the first artist signed to a major label because of its New Media success. Inked to Farmclub.com/Interscope in February 2000, Fisher releases its major label debut, True North, on November 14th.
But it is not technology but rather a deep, intense emotion heard in its songs, which promises to take Fisher beyond its status as a bona fide Web phenomenon.
When one terrestrial radio station recently downloaded "I Will Love You," a piano ballad/classic love song, from the Internet and played it during afternoon drive time--seemingly foolhardy for Fisher’s sensual moodiness--its phone lines lit up with listeners so touched they were weeping. The response prompted True North’s release to be pushed up from next year and "I Will Love You" to become its first single.
"People tuning in traditional radio do the same thing as people pointing and clicking at their computers--they’re making a choice about the music they want to hear," says Kathy. "There’s nothing accidental about people listening to your songs 2,000,000 times." Yet until Fisher was signed by Farmclub.com/ Interscope, she says, "We would go to labels and they’d say we sounded great but they didn’t know how to market our music, which we call ‘artistic pop.’ They’d tell us to come back when we had a fan base. I knew it was out there somewhere but we just had to find it--and it was on the Internet."
The number and intensity of those fans has surprised, no, shocked, even Fisher. "I Will Love You" has brought heart-wrenching e-mails and phone calls during radio appearances. "The happy ones are about the song being perfect for someone’s wedding," says Kathy, "but we've also gotten calls from people about how the song speaks to them about the worst tragedies of their lives and that gets me crying. I’m a very honest and open person and I write about relationships. But I didn't expect this to be such an incredibly emotional experience."
Her experience collaborating with Wasserman began with writing and performing songs for film and television. From the start, she says, "He was the perfect missing link for me; he's both left and right brain. He's my secret weapon." They worked on the theme song and other songs for the TV series 'Sweet Valley High'; and landed songs on various soundtracks, from small independent films to 1994's Dream Lover with James Spader.
In fact, Fisher's first big break arrived via a soundtrack. The gold album for Great Expectations, the 1998 film starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow, included Fisher's "Breakable" alongside tracks from Tori Amos, Scott Weiland and Iggy Pop, among others. Fisher put up a modest Web page and linked it to the film's site. The song was not in the movie but when Amos fans, in particular, bought the album, they fell in love with Fisher and the fan mail started pouring in. When Amos' site linked to Fisher's, the next question from fans became "Where can I get a Fisher CD?"
There was none because the soundtrack's record company had an option on the band for nine months during which time it wasn't allowed to release anything else. There was nothing to offer fans even after performances at several subsequent Lilith Fair dates, highlighted by Kathy singing Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" with Sarah McLachlan, Sinead O'Connor and Natalie Merchant.
Finally, Fisher self-released a 9-song EP, One, through internet retailers only in April 1999 and, with the MP3 mania taking hold, Wasserman made sure the songs were available for downloading on every possible site. Overcoming preconceived notions about marketing and music, One, containing songs such as "I Will Love You" and "Any Way," became a Net sensation. One week in March 2000, for example, three of the Top 10 requested pop songs on MP3.com were Fisher's.
Considering the unique route Kathy and Ron have traveled, it was only appropriate that Fisher ultimately sign to Farmclub.com, with its unique Web site (www.farmclub.com) and eponymous USA Network television show which offer unsigned artists opportunities for exposure. "For so long people said ÎWe love you but...,'" says Kathy. "Getting a record deal became such a big hurdle."
Now there's True North, produced by Wasserman, featuring the new songs "Human" ("about not becoming a victim," says Kathy), the darkly amusing "Miseryland" and the cheatin' tune "Simi California." True North also includes eight re-recorded songs from One (with live musicians rather than the original synthesizers), from the gentle title track about forgiveness to a reply to spoiled rock stars in "The Life." Along with a remixed "Mary" (a Net hit not included on One), the album also reprises "Breakable."
Many great expectations have been fulfilled since Fisher was first downloaded but one thing that will remain the same is that Wasserman will shun the spotlight. Fisher is Kathy's last name and it is a band but, she says, "Ron is very shy. We're like the Eurythmics if Dave Stewart wasn't in the photos."
Fisher, both Kathy and band, have come a long way and there is a long road still ahead. Some of it will be traveled the old-fashioned way, bussing to radio stations and tour stops, and some of it will be traveled in cyberspace. Fisher has made music and now Fisher makes history.
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