Andre Floyd doesn’t carry a typical business card.
Floyd, a linebacker-sized local musician wearing a straw hat slides his card across the table at a Kalispell coffee shop. A picture of a rainbow iguana sits at the top corner. The vivid color scheme more closely resembles a program for Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Below his name in three simple words Floyd gives his job description: musician, songwriter and educator.
Floyd is among a handful of people in the Flathead Valley who call themselves professional musicians. It’s a line of work that requires a positive mindset.
“So what if I have to eat Ramen noodles in the month of December because there are no gigs,” Floyd said. “You have to have faith to believe something is bigger than yourself.”
Floyd has kept his faith. He began performing at the tender age of 10 and now has more than 40 years of experience under his musical belt. As a child Floyd moved all over the world with his father who was in the air force. Floyd’s family made stops in Maine, Mississippi, Kansas and Panama. In 1969 Floyd came to Montana, graduating from Charles M. Russell High School in Great Falls before attending the University of Montana.
Over the years Floyd has evolved into a multi-talented musician, renowned blues guitarist and front man for his band Mood Iguana. He also works as a successful concert promoter and music producer, as well as a music teacher.
“This isn’t a hobby for me,” Floyd said. “Every penny I make comes from the music, it is what I do.” Although Floyd has made his living as a professional musician in Montana, he said the Flathead is not the ideal place to breed success. He believes the culture of Montana often makes going to a show at a club or a bar secondary to alcohol.
“The music is more of a vehicle than the actual event itself,” Floyd said. “Entertainment is almost more of an afterthought.” Floyd suggested more venues such as a theater or a cultural center would help to focus on the music and bring the community together. “I really believe in community,” he said. “Bringing people together to a common cause, to help understand each other and eliminate the illusion of difference.”
Floyd also thinks that because the Flathead Valley doesn’t draw the quality, big name entertainment of larger Montana cities, it can be harder for audiences to gauge what is good and what isn’t. He believes professionalism sets the great entertainers apart from the good ones.
“We are playing our own music, we are putting out a product,” Floyd said. But he doesn’t fault the music fans of the valley for making the Flathead a hard place to succeed as a professional musician. “We always draw great crowds,” Floyd said. “The fans are very loyal.”
Floyd feels that it takes an effort from both performers and the community to work together to support one another and demand growth. One of the biggest hurdles the Flathead Valley music scene may face is the way people talk about music when leaving a show.
“Everyone says they saw a good band,” Floyd said. “Nobody says they heard one.” Floyd wants fans to trust their instincts on what is quality music when they are supporting their local musicians: “It doesn’t have to be intelligent. It can be primal but it has to be honest.”