Local musician quit his day job to become a full time musician.
By Alora Haaf
Clark Andrew Libbey works tirelessly to live the life he enjoys.
After his day job cut his hours and benefits, the long-time bassist decided to leave the world of insurance behind and try his hand at being a fulltime musician.
“I had been playing music for 27 years already and I decided to put my money where my mouth is,” Libbey said.
That was a year ago. Now Libbey earns a living by playing about 20 gigs a month, split among his solo projects, his band Clark Libbey and the Last Takes, and as a member of The Eryn Bent Trio.
“You have to be relentless,” he said. “I’m not trying to get rich or famous. I just want to make a living as a working musician.”
While Libbey’s main focus is paying his bills, he also sees music as an important and almost ageless tradition.
“What I’ve started to realize since I’ve been doing this is that there is a nobility to being an entertainer that goes back thousands of years. The troubadours of the middle ages went from tavern to tavern, singing the drinking songs that everybody knew and loved.”
Although Libbey plays regularly in Albuquerque and the Southwest, he says 90 percent of what he does is business. He wakes up every morning at seven and goes to one of his favorite coffee shops where he sends emails, works on marketing and promotion, and books shows. His experience working as an insurance agent has made him a competent salesperson and businessman.
“Booking gigs is a sales job. There are several reasons why someone may not reply to an email. They didn’t see it, they were interested and they forgot to get back to me, or they didn’t like my music. They are going to give me one of two answers: either they are going to say they didn’t like the music or they’re going to book me. I don’t stop until I know one way or the other.”
Libbey grew up in the Clifton Heights/Coryville neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. Although it’s become a gentrified area of town, during his time it was a dangerous place where his friends endured high crime rates, police shootings, and riots. He describes his childhood home rather unfavorably – recalling cockroaches, termites, no air conditioning.
His friends consisted mostly of punks and his experimental noise band, Mystery Mary. One of his fondest memories of his hometown is of a Cincinnati winter when a blizzard snowed in the band.
“We came out just about midnight and our cars were completely covered in snow. The plows had come through and just pushed everything up against the house. We couldn’t leave for about three days. We just jammed, we ate and we hung out. We couldn’t go to work or anything. It was like living in a little commune with close friends,” he said.
He left Cincinnati when he received a scholarship to a Wesleyan College. There he received two bachelor’s degrees, one in German and one in philosophy. More importantly, he met a good friend, Karl Wulffraat, who later moved to Albuquerque. Wulffraat’s praise for New Mexico inspired Libbey to move here. Wulffraat is still the drummer in Clark Libbey and the Last Takes.
When Libbey decided to stay in Albuquerque, it was mostly for practical reasons. The low cost of living in New Mexico held great appeal to him, but he also enjoys the weather.
Check out his website clarkandrewlibbey.com for upcoming shows and information.
Alora Haaf is a freelance arts and entertainment reporter. Reach her at email@example.com