Friday, August 15, 2008

a month in the life of a musician (part 1)

so...i have decided to contribute to this blog. this month has been NUTS. lots of different stuff going on. i thought i would write about the last two weeks, and then maybe update daily for the rest of the month or just post again at the end (haven't decided yet).

the month began with a weekend out with Terri Clark. for those of you who don't know, i've been playing with her since the end of May. we've played around 30 shows since then, and i can honestly say this: no matter what state you are in, county and state fairs all look the same. the rides, booths, prizes, the people working the fair, and the patrons are all the same. it's all ferris wheels, funnel cakes, mullets, people reeking of cabbage, a petting zoo full of animals most of us eat, and a country music concert. on the 31st of July, i had the privilege of playing a gig with TC in New York, about 80 miles from NYC. having never been to the city, i was pretty excited to just be nearby. i guess i thought that every bit of land within a 100-mile radius of Manhattan would be big lights, big city. i was wrong. OHHH, so wrong. so, we pulled into the fairgrounds at 10am on our big white bus (with trailer), and they direct us to park in a nice secluded spot in the middle of a public sidewalk in the fair. we were all thinking that this must be a mistake. but, lo and behold, out the window of the bus sits a small red barn on wheels. and for some reason, there are stacks of speakers on one side of this barn, facing a field of folding chairs.

yes, it was the stage. the actual surface of the stage was comprised of a mess of loosely nailed lengths of 2x4, and the ego ramp was made of plywood. you'd have no idea that the most famous city in the world sits just over an hour away. that was an interesting show.

the following day, August 1st, we found ourselves in Urbana, OH, which is famous for being yet another place in this country that T-Mobile doesn't get any service. ugh. when your whole business revolves around your Blackberry, that just ain't cool. and, i usually talk to my wife two or three times a day when i'm on the road. by the time a runner pulled up to take the band to a local gym, i was pretty frustrated about being unable to communicate with anyone back home. instead of going to the gym, i opted to go straight to the hotel to work on some songs i needed to learn for an audition, and got taken back to the fair for dinner. up to this point, the worst catering i have EVER had was provided by the same company at two of the four country festivals TC played this summer in wisconsin: a breakfast of powdered imitation eggs, jerky-like bacon, lunchmeat trays full of cheese with rubbery corners, slimy bologna, some other unidentified meat, canned fruit (not good; trust me), crusty white bread, and pickles. the pickles were edible. at both of those gigs, several of us had elected to boycott dinner and had runners take us to some local restaurant. so, back to Urbana. i was pretty hungry by the time i reached the catering tent. i grabbed a plate and some silverware and asked the nice lady what's for dinner. she said two words that should never be placed together. the first was spam, which dictionary.com says is " a canned food product consisting esp. of pork formed into a solid block.." (note that it consists especially of pork--as in, there are other meats in this can!) the second word was loaf, which the same website says is a: shaped or molded mass of food, as of sugar or chopped meat, usually oblong with a rounded top. what this sweet grandmotherly lady is offering me is a steaming chunk of an oblong molded mass of especially pork from a can. needless to say, that beats old unidentifiable lunchmeat any day of the week. worst catering ever! after that gig, we drove the bus back to the hotel so everyone could shower after sweating it out under the stagelights. within ten minutes of leaving the hotel, my cell phone service kicked back in. in the time since i had lost service that morning, i received calls/texts asking for my services for four gigs. miraculously, 3 of the 4 callers hadn't found someone else yet by the time i called/emailed/texted them back at 11:30 that night. Verizon is looking really good right about now...

at 5am on Saturday, August 2nd, the tour bus pulled back into the bus lot just north of Nashville where all of the band and crew had left our cars. i loaded my gear up, drove home, and fell back asleep on an air mattress on our dining room floor (Anna's parents were in town for the weekend, and since i was gone, she slept on the couch and gave them our bed for the night.) we hung out with them for the next two days, and you can read all about it a few posts down.

on Monday the 4th, the night we had scheduled to have Anna's birthday party, i had booked a short rehearsal for the first of two label showcases for a new artist at The Rutledge. the guy who called me for the gig is someone i respect immensely and i am always happy to play when he calls. since it was a package deal--two shows and two rehearsals or nothing--i took it, even though it would mean i had to work on my wife's birthday (we are in debt-payoff mode, so i'm taking everything i can get!!) i was called to play acoustic guitar, rhythm electric, and ganjo (a six-string banjo tuned like a guitar). well, i had to borrow the ganjo from a friend. the rest of the band for these showcases are musicians i respect and kind of freak out on when i get to talk to them. they're just soooooooooo good. i love being a fly on the wall, just observing how they approach playing a song and learning parts. nerdy guitar stuff like that. i left the rehearsal early, just in time for Anna's party, which went really well. John (my father-in-law) made some amazing homemade ice cream.

Tuesday, the 5th, i spent most of the morning working on songs for an audition i had coming up ( i had spent some time over the weekend working on these songs as well, which caused me to miss out on some trips to the fabric store, the grocery store, and the dog park.) after that, i spent some time working on my ganjo playing, because the first of those two showcases was at 6pm. we had load-in at 3:30, and i had to set up a lot of gear: my electric guitar, pedalboard, and amp; my acoustic guitar and DI/preamp; and the ganjo and DI/preamp. we had to soundcheck three songs--one for each instrument i was playing--to make sure the artist could hear everything she needed. at about 5pm, i drove home really quickly to warm up some leftover grill food from Anna's party. i drove back to The Rutledge and played the showcase, which went really well. the guy on lead guitar is pretty much my favorite player ever, and i always love getting a chance to hear him play.

the next day was the day of my big audition. there is a brand new artist--doesn't even have a single out yet--who is produced by two of the biggest producers working today. well, this audition was for the producer who is based in and works out of Nashville (the other one is from LA). it was between me and two other guys, and i ended up getting the gig. i was really nervous though, because i know that the best guitar players in the world have sat in front of this guy and played for him on the biggest records to come out of this town in the last several years. apparently, i apologized for a tiny mistake here and there or made some sort of dumb comment about how i know that i could have played that one note a little better or something (put me onstage in front of 70,000 people, and i'll be fine; put me in a small room where there are about 5 people who are all intently listening to just me, and that gets to me). he told the bandleader to tell me to never apologize like that again. which makes sense; i showed up well prepared and played my best given the circumstances. i had nothing to apologize for. anyway, really excited that i landed that gig. everyone is really, really cool; the artist is really sweet and down to earth (and TALENTED); and the musicians are all great. the first date of this gig is a double session with the producer i auditioned for. the band is recording two Christmas songs for the artist later this month. i am extremely excited for this.

on the 7th, i didn't have anything musical on the calendar for the day (no gigs, rehearsals, or sessions). but, having won that audition, i had 12 more songs to learn and get ready for rehearsals with the new artist. so, i spent a lot of the day playing along to the CD--deciding which guitars to use on which songs, which overdrive pedals, what kind of delay (if any), and which amp i'll take out on the road. i'm going to use my Tele and my Les Paul and probably the Duesenberg. The amp will be my Gabriel Voxer V33.

okay, so i'm tired. i've decided to recount this month a week at a time. stay tuned for the 8th-14th...

--justin

3 comments:

Kerry said...

I love the honest, candid way you write! With your permission, I may have to read excerpts to my class. Several of Anna's have already been shared!

justinO said...

go ahead!

Amy said...

I'm so glad you're blogging too, Justin. Now, can y'all come up and play a show in the DC area and bring Anna with you?? Please!!!