Landon Conrath is Employee of the Year—For Now

With a new album and tour dates on the horizon, the indie-pop artist reflects on industry pressures and the true meaning of success

It’s been a busy year for Landon Conrath. In January, the Twin Cities-based indie-pop artist embarked on a national tour that extended through April, and the tour’s final show in Minneapolis coincided with his release of a six-song EP. Just over a week later, Conrath announced that he will be hitting the road again this fall for his forthcoming album, “Employee of the Year.” The album’s first single, “Will Nye,” came out last week. 

“He can’t stop!” wrote one fan in the comments of Conrath’s album-slash-tour announcement on Instagram. And it’s true—Conrath hasn’t slowed down since his career began in 2020. He has released over 30 songs in four years and has never gone more than a few months without putting out new music.  

Artwork for Landon Conrath's single "Will Nye"
Album artwork for “Employee of the Year”

Photo by Charlie Flatten

Surprisingly, Conrath says his career took off almost by accident—in terms of streaming numbers, his success came quickly and unexpectedly. When he released his debut single, “Pieces,” in 2020, it was placed onto a few of Spotify’s popular algorithmic playlists and amassed 14,000 streams in a matter of days. The algorithm worked in Conrath’s favor again with his second release, “Acetone,” and his listener count skyrocketed.  

“I was experiencing this rapid growth online, but it was still in this time where it was illegal to play a show [because of the pandemic],” Conrath says. “There was no way for me to bring any of that into the real world.” 

While it took some time to translate his online success into in-person fans, Conrath has clearly found his footing with live shows (he sold out several venues during his last tour). But there’s always more work to be done in other areas of his career, he explains, whether it’s finishing new music or marketing himself on social media. Right now, Conrath is spending time at home between two major headlining tours, but that doesn’t mean he can stop working. 

“I feel like in the last 18 months, even up to two years, I’ve been feeling like an employee rather than an artist. Just constantly chasing these deadlines and trying to make everyone happy,” Conrath says. “My whole life is work. My whole life is music. I feel this constant pressure to perform and be the employee of the year.” His upcoming album offers reflections on this period of his life, lifting the veil on certain parts of the music industry fans don’t often get to see. 

Landon Conrath
Landon Conrath

Photo by Charlie Flatten

We caught up with Conrath to further discuss the ethos of his album, the double-edged sword of going viral as a musician, and his upcoming tour. 

When you reflect on the beginning of your career and the viral moment that kickstarted everything, what lessons did you take away from the experience? 

I remember going to my first show outside of Minneapolis—I had just sold out 7th Street Entry, so I was like, touring is gonna be easy. We played in La Crosse, Wisconsin, so not a great music market in the first place, but like 12 people came, and they were all there for the opener. The only people that came to watch my set were my drummer’s sister and one of her friends. It was this slap back to reality—I need to figure out how to bring this all into real life and find where the community is. I think that has been my total focus for the last four years… how can I bring real people into this and make them feel like they’re a part of something? 

We see a lot of musicians talk about the pressure of going viral online, particularly on TikTok. As someone who has translated internet success into a real-life fanbase, how do you feel about the role of TikTok and social media in the music industry? 

It’s frustrating. Being a content creator as your main title is a frustrating shift. There’s so much luck involved in Instagram and TikTok success, and some people’s music just doesn’t translate super well. I’ve felt that myself, where I don’t have a lot of TikTok-able lyrics where I can condense the song into 10 seconds. It’s hard when it feels like that’s your responsibility all of a sudden. 

What’s your goal in terms of finding a balance between making online content and focusing on your music and live shows? 

I think I’m still trying to find that. I can talk about wanting to be boots on the ground and touring in real life all the time, but deep down, of course I want to go viral. That would change everything. I mean, people’s careers get flipped instantly because of stupid videos all the time. That’s always this nagging thing in the back of your mind—you’re one video away from being successful. I’ve found some sort of format in videos to try and showcase my personality, I think people connect with that. But I’m still trying to figure that out, I think.  

Your new album, “Employee of the Year,” comes out this fall. How are you feeling about this new chapter? 

Two months ago, I didn’t even have a name or a thought for an album in mind. It was maybe late April or early May, and I was listening to some demos that I had put into a folder on Google Drive. There was a lyric in one of the demos, “employee of the year for now,” and it really jumped out at me. I felt like that had potential to be an overarching theme for this collection of songs. So, I kind of rolled with it and pitched the idea to my manager, and like three days later, everyone was ready to go, and we were already in gear. Right now, I’m in this flurry of trying to keep up with deadlines, and I think it perfectly ties into the album. 

Tell me more about that titular phrase. What does it mean to you, both personally and in the album’s context? 

The idea I want to get out with [the album] is that outward success doesn’t necessarily mean inward fulfillment. I think that is a message that transcends being a musician. There are people who receive a lot of praise at their jobs and places of influence, but they don’t feel like they’re deserving of it or that it’s satisfying them. And they’re looking for something more, maybe. I’m not claiming to know what that something more is, but I wanted people to know that I feel the same way all the time. 

That was kind of the ethos behind the record. The goal of my music is always to erase the idea that I’m anyone special or out of the ordinary, and I’m always looking to break down as many barriers between me and the listener as possible. I want people to know that I’m going through the same things. 

You’re hitting the road again this fall for another headlining tour. What can audiences expect from this round of live shows? 

I’m putting a lot of new work into visuals, which I’ve never done before. So, I’m super excited for that. Also, I feel like every time we play, we’re learning so much about how to make everything more seamless and professional. I’m just excited to give people the best version of my live show that’s ever happened. Everything’s just elevated. 

As Managing Editor of Minnesota Monthly, Macy strives to capture the Spirit of Minnesota through impactful storytelling and engaging content. Obsessed with all things entertainment and pop culture, her editorial background encompasses a wide variety of arts and lifestyle coverage—from interviewing local musicians and Broadway actors to exploring that trend you can’t stop hearing about. With her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the Twin Cities, Macy is passionate about the people, places, and ideas driving Minnesota’s culture. You can often find her cuddling her two cats, seeing a local band, or crossing movies off her ever-growing watchlist (yes, she’s on Letterboxd).