Courtesy of Matt Fazzi
Simple tips to help musicians land (and keep) that next big gig as a Hired Gun!
My name is Matt Fazzi, and I’m from a New York-based rock band called Rare Futures. I've worked in several other bands as a "hired gun" musician in the past few years, (with some pretty well-established acts such as Taking Back Sunday, Atlas Genius, The Dear Hunter, and Into It Over It, to name a few).
As somewhat of a seasoned veteran in the tour-for-hire world, I wanted to share a few ideas to help up and coming musicians get into the "hired Gun" zone of tours and gigs.
Play, play, play
I know it's boring to say "practice, practice, practice," but it’s the inevitable truth: the more you play, the more you’ll improve – and if you want to be a gun-for-hire, you’re going to have to be badass at your instrument. Hopefully you love your instrument so much that playing isn't really practice anyway, so with that in mind, there’s a variety of ways to stay riffin’ and progressing.
Train your ear by learning your favorite songs or albums front to back and playing along until you’re perfect, soaking up every little nuance along the way. Take any chance you can to jam with fellow musicians, because you can always learn from how someone else approaches their craft and how they play.
There’s a million ways to utilize the internet to improve as well. Searching YouTube to learn new practice scales or watch someone dissect chords can really help expand your playing knowledge and get you familiar with your instrument.
The idea is to advance to a point where you are so relaxed and proficient, you can play confidently under more challenging circumstances where nerves or other factors start to come into play.
Diversify your styles
It’s best to listen to as many different styles of music as you can and always look for something positive to take away. Be open to flavors outside of your comfort zone. From the rhythms, to the production, to the chord arrangements and melodies, there’s plenty to explore within a song and learn and draw from.
Absorbing an array of different genres will broaden your tastes and help expand your arsenal of tricks to call upon when adding to a band’s song or sound. It’s like adding spices to your spice rack: you want to have diversity, you can’t just stick to salt and pepper all the time. Being able to play a vast array of styles and quickly adapt and interchange them is an invaluable skill when you’re stepping in and out of new band situations a lot as a hired hand.
Nail your stage persona
You become extremely valuable to a band when you have your performance details on lock. Pay attention and be aware of how you're presenting and carrying yourself onstage and how it fits within the band’s ultimate vibe. You want to complement and mesh with the team when performing, not detract from what's happening onstage. If everyone wears black, wear black. If everyone dresses like a clown, reach for that makeup and Bozo nose.
Details like how you’re blending within the band, how you look when you move and groove, and even what you’re wearing are important pieces of the puzzle and reflections of your professionalism and awareness, so don’t sleep on them. Not every bedroom shredder is made to perform on an arena stage, just like not all situations call for that David Bowie onesie you love to wear so much. It’s worth keeping in mind people are paying to see you onstage, so you shouldn’t look like you rolled out of bed or just finished painting a house.
Put some thought into the image you’re attempting to project. And don't be a statue during the gig; music is rhythm and it should move you. Shake that rump. It’s a show, after all!
This means do your music homework beforehand and don't waste anyone in the band's time when you hit rehearsals. If they ask you to learn four songs, learn 20. Study their music closely and really get inside the details so that when you discuss the songs in rehearsals, you know the titles, arrangements, and everyone’s parts like the back of your hand.
Making sure your gear's in working order (and knowing how it operates inside and out) is crucial so you can properly achieve the right sounds and efficiently remedy any potential issues down the line on tour. It’s all about repetition and familiarity. Sensing a pattern here?
Being in a band on tour, you learn quickly that nothing ever goes 100 percent smoothly or as planned, so the more you can adopt a go-with-the-flow attitude, the better off you’ll be.
Don’t throw a fit because you had to get a Dunkin' coffee instead of your normal Starbucks, and don’t go Ozzy Osborne with your wacky comfort demands. Nobody has the patience and energy for it, and frankly, that’s probably not gonna get you hired back for the next tour.
Be adaptable and positive. It’s tough living in each other’s personal space for almost 24 hours a day for sometimes weeks or months at a time, so to successfully get through it takes a huge level of understanding and respect for your fellow band-mates.
You should have a team-first mentality; everyone is pulling the same rope, so look out for your crew, lend a helping hand at all times, and be respectful of the limited space in the van or bus by not treating it like your bedroom. Be on your best behavior at all times!
At the end of the day, being a consummate touring pro is about reliability and consistency across the board, from preparation, to performance, to attitude – all of which are important elements to being a well-rounded musician and giving yourself the greatest chance for success and longevity. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll get that next gig!
Multi-instrumentalist Matt Fazzi has pursued countless creative endeavors throughout his 15-year career. Having performed alongside notable acts including Taking Back Sunday, Atlas Genius, and A Great Big Pile of Leaves, Fazzi has continually shared his innovative passion for blending genres and influences with no signs of stopping. His latest project, Rare Futures, just released their latest ambient and soulful album titled This Is Your Brain On Love, out now.