A full-time touring band seems like it’s going to last forever but, unless you are extremely fortunate, it won’t. Eventually, the celebrity your band is named after will be accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women. The hyper-inventive and catchy band name then becomes taboo, forcing it to be changed and starting a cascading effect that leads to the ultimate demise of the project. It’s something that eventually happens to every musician at some point during their career. Right?
Roughly a year ago, the band I was in, Turbo Suit (some of you may know it by the ill-fated name, Cosby Sweater), decided to hang it up. Since then, I’ve relocated and been lucky to be involved in some great musical experiences. I had been part of a band in some way for pretty much the entirety of adult life, so I was a little uncertain about how to approach my new musical lifestyle. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.
The Boy Scouts Were Right – I tried being a boy scout when I was a kid, but you have to go in the woods and stuff and there were no girls there, so I quit after about six months. I did learn one thing along the way, The Boy Scouts’ famous mantra “Always Be Prepared.” Do your homework for every gig because a well-prepared musician beats a talented musician every time. Of course, if you can be both, do that.
Go To Stuff – Remember that time when all those musicians you didn’t know came over to your house and hung out and got to know you and decided you were cool and they should work with you in the future? I don’t. You have to be a part an active member of the “scene” you want to play in if you want to be an active musician in it. No one will call you if they don’t have your phone number. Don’t go to everything, though.
Stay Writing – One of the joys of being in an active project is creating and performing your own original music. Keep this going, even when you don’t have anyone in particular to write for. Having an active portfolio of song ideas ready to go can lead to some great opportunities. After all, How are people going to believe you can write music if you don’t write music? Bands want to work with musicians that can do more than just perform on stage. Speaking of this, I’ve been sending Umphrey’s McGee some “pretty chill beats” I thought they could use to “change music forever.” They haven’t gotten back to me yet, but iMessage said they read it like 6 months ago, so I should hear back any minute.
Communicate – Don’t leave people hanging when they are trying to work with you. It’s annoying, and it’s gonna make them want to put you in the musical equivalent of the “friend zone.”
Be Handsome – One thing that has helped me along the way is my stunning profile. I was once referred to as a “young Jude Law, but like, with a red beard for some reason” by an enamored concert goer. I know this because, after I play, I go into the last stall of the nearest restroom and eavesdrop to hear what people are saying about me. This is something that every musician does no matter what they tell you. . . . Okay, no one said this, but in my mind they did.
These rules should be fairly obvious to any working musician that hasn’t had the luxury of being in a steady project in the past. The goal is to take advantage of every opportunity out there and find a way to create opportunities for yourself. Well, I’m gonna go call my old bandmate Jeff and breathe heavily into the phone while he repeatedly tells me that he knows it’s me because, “Dude, Caller-ID has been a thing since the 90’s, and you’re literally exhaling into your saxophone.”