Photo by Dean Budnick

Nov. 6, 2018 is the next national Election Day, and while midterm elections have a historically low voter turnout, entrepreneur Emily White has devised a way to get young voters not only out to the polls, but to get them into a concert for free.

By enlisting promoters, venues, artists and managers, White has created the #iVoted initiative with the support of Mike Luba of Madison House and Wilco multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone. All fans have to do is show a participating venue a photo of themselves outside their local polling place and they can get into a show for free.

The current list of participating venues includes Irving Plaza, The Gramercy Theatre, Brooklyn Bowl and Warsaw in New York, as well as Stubb’s, Scoot Inn, and Emo’s in Austin, Tx. Motorco in Durham, NC, Downtown Artery in Ft. Collins, Colo. and The Black Box in Denver have also joined the cause. Florida’s Tampa Theatre also recently joined.

The list of venues is growing every day, and Sansone explains that he’s happy to support this worthy cause in whatever way he can. As an official #iVoted spokesman, he knows the importance of getting involved on every level.

“I certainly don’t profess to understand all the ins and outs of how our government is run,” he says. “But I’m learning more and I think that we have to encourage people to understand the process more and to get involved—local elections, state elections, our congressional representatives, all of that. People need to know that they have a voice in making those decisions.”

We caught up with Sansone recently to discuss #iVoted, meeting a young Barack Obama and finding gigs in Nashville grocery stores.

Tell me a little bit about the iVoted initiative and what you’re working on and what your role in this whole thing is?

Mostly my role is just being a supporter for Emily and what she’s doing. Really it’s her baby and it’s her idea, but I’m just helping her spread the word about it and connecting her with some promoters that I know and basically just flying the flag for it. I think it’s an incredible idea and being able to marry the music world with political involvement for anyone really, but especially for younger voters, is super important right now just in our world.

Emily and I have been working together for several years now. She’s such a go-getter, such a motivated person with big ideas and the skills to put them in motion. She’s helped me in all kinds of projects that I’ve worked on immensely. She is the manager of my band the Autumn Defense and she was also managing the project that I produced, a young band from Chicago that were called the Future Monarchs. So, anything I can do to help her with this, I’m down for the cause.

I’m kind of curious, on a more personal level, what were your first engagements in the political process? Have you always had an interest in this type of activism?

Well, yeah. I mean, I would say, I think the first presidential election that I voted in was back in the 90’s for Clinton. And I just remember being very excited at that time to be able to participate and feel like it was making a difference. The energy at that time of there being a movement of young people getting involved in the political process.

I’ve always been wanting to feel that energy, hoping to feel that energy. And with what’s happening in the world right now it’s obviously super important that young people get involved. I think it’s gonna make all the difference in these upcoming elections.

You kind of mentioned what’s happening in the world right now. And I kind of wanted to follow up on that because Wilco isn’t an overtly political band, yet we live in increasingly politicized times. So do you feel like the current political climate is drawing more artists and musicians into that type of conversation?

For sure. We don’t have any choice. I think a certain amount of non-involvement and just laziness has gotten us where we are right now. I think that’s become obvious. Watching what happened with the energy surrounding the Sanders campaign was super inspirational. Just to watch a candidate like him go from such a modest beginning in his campaign, and see the numbers of people he was getting out at his events right up to the end, was just incredible. I think we’re gonna see that again. I hope. I think that’s what the #iVotes initiative is about. Just trying to harness that energy any way we can.

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