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The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned: Music Is Your Job, Treat It Like One

I’ve been playing and touring with Big Something for seven years this May and I’ve learned so many things from these guys individually and from our travels together. After so many shows and miles traveled it’s hard to pinpoint the most valuable thing that lends itself to success: staying in shape, squeezing in practice time, putting on an entertaining and engaging live show…these are obviously all really critical to thriving as a group. But after taking some time to think about something I’ve learned in THIS particular band that I may not have in another project, my thesis boiled down to essentially this: Music is your job, treat it like one.

Playing music for a living is a pretty amazing thing. I almost feel like I’ve cheated the system a bit being able to do it as a full time occupation.  I’ve said before that our job is everyone else’s party. We have the distinct agenda to give people a cathartic release for 3 hours a night.  The danger with this is toeing the line between connecting to your audience and sharing in the experience and becoming a part of the party.

In any occupation; carpentry, finance, psychiatry, firefighting, selling shoes at foot locker, anything..you’re expected to show up on time, be at your best mentally and physically, and work as part of a team to shine the best possible light on what you do.

Unfortunately, with a life dedicated to playing in bars, festivals and private parties, these lines can get blurred.

When you get comfortable with your bandmates onstage it can become commonplace to take a professional atmosphere for granted, especially on long tours. You feel as though things are dialed in as a band so you take more liberties mingling, taking a shot at the bar before the show, taking three or four after…I’m not suggesting completely shutting off your fun switch. Let me be clear, you don’t need to sit quietly in the corner of the greenroom with your hands folded until the show starts. In fact, part of what makes playing music so amazing is getting to be a part of that electricity every night. Just remember what your job is: to facilitate this atmosphere not to overindulge in it.

To this point, a unique thing about being in a band is your workplace or office changes on a day to day basis. And with a change of office, comes a change of co-workers. New sound techs, new buyers and promoters, new security guards and door-people, and new owners (essentially your boss for the night). It’s so important to show up every day on time, ready to work, feeling your best and make a good impression on these people. They’re all working their asses off and if you show up hungover or exhausted, 2 hours late to a soundcheck with a bogus attitude, it makes the environment more difficult for everyone.

If you did that in an office or construction site you’d probably be fired within the week.  In our profession, you just leave an entire venue with a bad taste in their mouth…and the next time you come back (if you’re lucky enough to get that opportunity), they’re going to be expecting the worst.

I don’t want to sound like a wet blanket here, I really don’t. There’s nothing wrong with a few drinks or a late night now and then in the appropriate window. Hanging and meeting with friends and fans is a HUGELY important and wonderful part of being on the road and the live music experience. But the risk lies in compromising your longevity as a group. Taking the environment and well being of your band and the staffs you encounter for granted will ultimately affect your chances of success.

A friend in a high place once told me “It isn’t a matter of whether a band will or won’t make it, it’s a matter of them staying together long enough to get there.” The more you can cut out the negative distractions and be professional, the longer you’ll be able to function at a high level, and enjoy a life in music the way you want to.

A six-piece powerhouse with a sound that is both unique and timeless, Big Something fuses elements of rock, pop, funk, and improvisation to take listeners on a journey through a myriad of musical styles. It’s no secret why this group has quickly become one of the most exciting new bands to emerge from the Southeast. Soaring guitars, EWI (electronic wind instrument), synths, horns and alluring vocal hooks rise to the top of their infectious collection of songs and represent a sound that has caught the ears of such revered stalwarts as Umphrey’s McGee, Moon Taxi, Galactic, moe., Robert Randolph, and even The B52s, who have all tapped Big Something as direct support.

To hear more from Big Something, you can purchase a CD here.

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Managing Editor of this lovely magazine! Music is my passion & I aim to make people love it as much as I do. I love concerts, cats, & quoting song lyrics on social media.

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