Friday, July 22, 2011

Want a touring gig with a Artist or band? Here's how it works.

A quick chat with road warrior and pro musician Andy Sheridan.

How did you get into music?

My life has revolved around music from an early age. I started taking piano lessons classically at age 4. Both my parents are musicians. Guitar came in high school. I was just trying to be cool! Piano wasn't cool to me then, I hated it actually when I was younger but my parents made me stick it out. Boy am I glad they did!

Were you in bands growing up?

Yeah I was in a couple bands. At the time I had my own original music, I was playing at church and I was also playing in a couple other bands throughout high school. My dreams starting focusing around music when I was in these bands. I thought to myself, well, we are making a couple dollars here and there, why not try and make a career out of it? 

Did you attend school?

One year at Kentucky Christian university as a church music major, I thought it'd be a good way to incorporate music an get paid for it...turns out that's not the greatest attitude to have towards church music. Through that year I slowly began to realize that me being in the middle of nowhere Kentucky wasn't helping my musical dreams to become a reality. So I decided to transfer, although I know why I went to KCU, that's where I met my wife! Decide to transfer to Belmont University in Nashville. Music city had to have something to offer me. Even though I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life, I started school as a commercial piano major. I took lessons from guys that really kicked my butt. The good part of this was it was reassurance that I was doing the right thing. After 2 and 1/2 years of classes I got the gig with Phil Vassar.  
So I "postponed" my education. :) 

“It's not really about who you know, it's about who knows you”. 

How did you start playing for Phil Vassar?

During my time at Belmont I worked as a front of house engineer for a dinner theater where my wife worked. I met the husband of a gal who was in one of the productions with my wife. He was the fiddle player for Phil at the time. He introduced me to Phil and the gang one evening and I ended up doing an internship with Phil that summer. Lots of sweat, long days and hot trailers later, I was offered the full time position as acoustic guitar player and tech. Hard work actually does pay off. 

What are a few tips for the person trying to get a gig playing for some one?

Meet anyone and everyone that plays. Whether it's in town, down on lower Broadway or on the road full time, make connections. You have to shamelessly self promote yourself. It's not really about who you know, it's about who knows you. 

How does a typical Nashville band tryout work?

The band leader of the band or artist you are auditioning for will contact you and let you know which songs they want to hear during the audition. And depending on what capacity you are trying to fill, guitar, keys, bgvs..., you have a short amount of time to learn the tunes. The key here is memorization. They don’t want you to be reading charts when you audition. It looks bad on your part. Then they will set a date for the audition, sometimes only a few days away, then you show up, LOOKING THE PART, can't emphasize this enough. Look professional when you show up. Play the songs, and then typically within a few days they will let you know their decision. 
It could also happen a bit differently though, if the artist is in a bind, someone quit/was fired unexpectedly, they might bring you out for a few shows and that will be your audition. Tryout under fire!

How do you stay healthy on the road?

Staying healthy is one of the hardest parts. But it's all about a routine. Get in the habit of waking up early for a run, or walk, or try and hit the local YMCA or gym. Also, partner up. Find someone who wants to stay healthy too. It's much easy when you have other people to motivate you and keep you accountable. 

Other tips? 
I have always said/heard that your musicianship is only about 50% of you keeping your gig. You have to have a golden work ethic and a good attitude. Otherwise someone who is in line for your gig will replace you in a heartbeat. And that's the other thing as well, NEVER forget that there are thousands of other people that do what you do and don't have a gig. So keep yourself around by staying on top of the music, playing good shows and being a good hang. Remember, this won't last forever, so enjoy every show, long bus ride, and seeing new places. Practicing doesn't hurt either...  ;-) 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Adventures Of Co-Writing

I was sixteen when I walked into my first pro studio. I was there to co-write with a producer who had been signed by Capital Records as an artist earlier in his career. It was a big deal! He came in sat down and after some brief chitchat he asked me what song ideas I had been working on. I showed him a couple and off he went taking my ideas into whatever direction he chose. Whenever I would speak up with an idea he would dismiss it because, after all, I was just a punk kid.  That was my first real co-writing experience. It was a bit rough to say the least. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to co-write with all kinds of people and it has honestly been one of the most musically rewarding things that I have ever experienced.

Two heads are better than one! 
When two talented people get together to write a song the results are, on average, far better than if it was just one writer.  You are constantly being pushed by each other to come up with that perfect line. You have twice as many ideas going. When you’re stuck they aren’t and when they are drawing a blank you have that perfect idea. Their not quite right idea will lead you to another not quite right idea, which will lead you to the perfect final idea.  It’s ideas going everywhere. Lennon and McCartney needed each other and if two of the best writers in history co-write then you should seriously consider it.

Are you crazy? That’s awesome!
One of the great reasons to co-write is it keeps you from throwing out good ideas. I may be feeling sheepish about my bridge melody idea and ready to throw it out and the other person says “are you crazy that part is awesome’!  There have been times that I’ve almost thrown out the main hook of a song just because I was feeling insecure.  Nashville Producer Lynn Nichols used to tell me all artists are insecure about their music because they are sharing parts of who they are. No one wants to be rejected for who they are.  In my experience, he’s exactly right!

Find someone that is talented and fits you.
The only way to find the write co-writing partner is to just start writing with other talented people. You will know when its right.  If the person you are co-writing with isn’t talented well then none if this will matter. Your going to run into people who are talented, but for whatever reason the fit isn’t right. A lot of times people can be a bit selfish with their ideas.  Don’t be one of those people! Its only keeping you from writing a better song! 

Don’t let a bad experience stop you.
I’m glad that as a sixteen year old I didn’t let one bad experience stop me from pursuing co-writing with others. I would have missed out on so much. Not only can you write some fantastic songs but you create long lasting relationships that matter.