"Anytime a band goes out for the first time, it's going to be hard and no one's going to know who they are," Callahan says. "If they can keep getting money for gas and sell a few CDs and gain a few fans in each new town then, that's pretty successful. It's just hard."

But for Hirunrusme and Johnson, the positive results from the tough times on the road have begun to show themselves in tangible and emotionally gratifying ways. Both artists derive satisfaction out of something as simple as looking down and seeing a fan from a new town actively engaged in a song that was written far from the stage they're performing on.

"It's amazing to look down and see people singing along," Hirunrusme says enthusiastically. "It's really not about the crowd size, but about the people that are really excited about seeing you."

Johnson agrees, and takes his appreciation for a sincere crowd connection a step further. Knowing that he and his mates aren't likely to get rich anytime soon, Johnson finds immense value in the individual experiences that make up life for him and his band when away from home—even when there may be only 15 people watching.

"Some of the coolest shows are the ones where we're on the road and there are less than a hundred people," Johnson says. "I'm always thinking about how I can turn the show on its head in order to make it great. I think I have to do that, because more often than not most bands are used to not playing for anyone."

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