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Getting the gigs

Discussion in 'Ask Justin Meldal-Johnsen' started by KellanEmSoftly, Mar 29, 2015.

  1. Hi Justin...I'm a huge fan of your work and style, and have been for a long time now - why, just 12 years ago I was fired from my first job at a soccer field concessions stand for listening to Ima Robot's first LP on the boom box. Ironically enough, I have come to you here so many years later to ask some career advice.

    I have been playing bass most of my life. I'm 25 years old, and live about 30 miles north of Seattle. For the last 4 years I have spent most of my musical time with a band my friends and I started - gigging regulary, recording even more often, we even tried our hand at touring (and it wasn't a complete failure) - but the nature of that group has changed, and I find myself become something much more like a free agent. Without much of a clue as to what I should be doing about that, in order to ensure that I continue growth as a musician and hopeful professional.

    I have a good job that affords my living. I have all the gear I would ever need for a basic club gig. I have a Bass Player mag subscription, and let's not forget...a TB account. I have skills: electric and upright bass training, diverse music taste, multi-instrumentalism, songwriting, singing...heck, I even dress nice and my face isn't totaly hideous. But I'm not entirely sure that I know how to get a quality gig! A few problems present themselves:

    - Don't most well-established acts already have bass players? How do I get other guys kicked out of the bass chair? What are the karmic repercussions of such an act?

    - Seattle, as with many cities, is a bit oversaturated with talent and entertainment acts...if I can't get out to a club every night to monitor the pulse of the Pacific Northwest music scene, how will I ever know what I'm really looking for?

    - Would you think it an issue that I live 30 miles north of the "action" ...even if it meant my rent jumping up 600%?

    - Should I just go to LA or NY like everyone else?

    Perhaps this is too broad of a concern, but maybe you could point me towards step one on pimping myself. I also apologize if there is an identical thread on this forum, but tbh I only saw gear questions like 8 pages deep. Regardless, I thank you for any consideration!
  2. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2005
    Well with a TB account, sheesh! :) Man I have to say this is really funny...I love the idea of examining the karmic repercussions of getting someone kicked out of their bass gig. Got some laughs out of that.

    I think LA or NY or Nashville or Austin are all presenting themselves to be the best options these days, probably in that order. That said, sometimes being a big fish in a small pond can yield great things. It happens.

    Yes, most well-established acts already have bass players, but stuff happens out there, then all the sudden you're hearing about an audition cattle call.

    I think you DO need to get out there as much as possible, because you touched on something that is very important to reinforce: The more that one can NAME the thing that they are looking for, and articulate the characteristics of who they really ARE as an artist/bass player/etc, the easier it will be to eventually find an ideal home for your talents. This is a personal truth for me. It's not about being vain, but it is about being bloody-minded and gently confident enough to have a sense of self: knowing what exact characteristics make up the gig that you're meant for is a huge asset. The more you blow in the wind, the less interesting you are to people. Conversely, certainty creates magnetism.

    I don't know if where you live is that important, honestly. But it's where you can get to, and how often.

    Hope some of that helps.

  3. Thanks a million for the sound words, Mr. Meldal-Johnson. I appreciate the hell out of that advice!
  4. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2005
    You're most welcome. And just to clarify that big paragraph: I'm really just saying that the more you know about what you want, the easier it is to find the ultimate destination. And the corollary to that is: people out there respond better to those who have a clearer sense of self-identity, even if it rubs people the wrong way sometimes (which it usually shouldn't, unless you're a narcissistic dickhead). Then, once you have that sort of clarity of identity/purpose, you "getting out there" probably means more somehow.

    Good luck to you!
    Matt Call likes this.
  5. Thanks again! That does raise one question with me, though, if I could be so bold as to probe a bit deeper, here. I sort of consider myself useful in a lot of territory, much like you yourself, sir. While I yearn to find a community like the hip-hop/jazz/soul/electronic scene that bassers like Pino and Thundercat have become crucial members of, I could also see myself doing wonderfully in Nashville as a solid root-fiver with vocal harmony and songwriting bonuses. Is this the fork in the road Robert Frost was talking about? Is this the decision you suggest I make? Or are both sides of that coin for me to keep in my pocket and spend as necessary? ...and if the latter is true, what would you say is the essence of what you wanted when you were coming up?
  6. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2005
    All I can say is that's it's probably more vital for you to specialize first. I say that because my "diversity" is often an impediment for me. Doing something focused and particular seems to always win out on the average. Doesn't mean you can't walk the line and go back to the "fork" sometimes and make forays down the other path, but I do think you should really, really work on playing to your strengths and inserting yourself into a like-minded area.
  7. :O ¡That's deep as hell! :O

    But makes perfect sense. Duly noted. Many thanks!

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