Hello fans and fellow players,
This is Bob Hempker with today’s newsletter. Let’s start this newsletter out with a good old road story.
One time, when I was working for Roy Clark, we got a new bus. We immediately left and went on a four week tour. About two days into the tour, we noticed the bathroom was flooding on the floor of the bus. We emptied the holding tank, put a new wax seal on the commode, filled the holding tank back up, but that didn’t stop the flooding.
We made numerous calls back to the company that Roy had purchased the bus from trying to isolate the problem so we could fix it. Nothing seemed to work. We couldn’t go back home because we were committed to do the dates on the tour. As a result we were forced to travel without a functioning bathroom for almost four weeks.
We stopped at a Walmart and bought a plastic bucket. We sat it in the bathroom and used that when the need arose. Everybody took a turn at emptying the bucket. Even Roy took his turn. The bucket filled up faster than what you’d think it would.
When we finally got back to town after all this time, our bus driver took the bus back to where Roy bought it. What they found was totally unbelievable. The carpet layer who had laid the carpet in the bus cut his little scraps off and threw them in the commode. That’s what caused the toilet to stop up.
So the point is, working in the entertainment business and traveling on the road is not as glamorous as it’s made out to be.
Whether we like it or not, our personality, mood swings and attitudes come through in our playing. You can play a real aggressive sounding blues solo when you’re a little hacked off about something. When we’re sad and melancholy, our ballad playing seems to excel. When we’re happy and upbeat, we’ll probably want to play up-tempo tunes that make you want to dance.
Conversely, if we’re sad, it’s harder to play an up-tempo tune with any real conviction. As a professional you need to be aware of this tendency and not let it affect our playing in a piece that we’re not quite in the right mood to play.
On a familiar note, if you’re in a proper mood to play a certain piece, allow your emotions to flow. This can enhance your solo. In normal playing circumstances, we end up playing a cacophony of all different types of songs. We have to do this to hold an audience’s attention and to entertain them. We can’t just play whatever we’re in the mood to play song after song.
Sometimes one band member may be in a jovial mood while another band member may be going through some personal problems and not be up. We have to jell as a unit and come together and play all the songs with the emotion they are meant to display.
Along with the mental aspects of our mood coming out in our playing, it also comes out in our body language and you don’t want that to spill over into the rest of the group. You can’t allow that to affect the hue or color of our music. As a professional, it’s our job to sell the music no matter what or how we feel at the particular moment.
Going out on the road for extended periods of time can be even more difficult to restrain our moods. We’re housed in a tin can rolling down the road for hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles at a time. One person with a real sour attitude or disposition can make daily life really difficult for the others around him.
Also whoever rooms with that person when we get hotel rooms, is really put through their own hell. Working the road even when things are at their very best, is extremely hard work. Personality quirks and conflicts are bound to arise. The best we can deal with them on a one to one basic with whoever we’re having problems with, the better is it on ourselves and everyone else around us.
Traveling in such close proximity can bring out both the best and the worst in people. We need to resolve our conflicts as quickly as possible. We don’t want the cancerous sore to bleed into the other members of the group.
It’s hard to go onstage and play when there are personal conflicts going on in the band. We have to remember that we’re trying to work as a team and leave those differences outside before we enter the venue we’re playing. If we bring them onstage, it can ruin a show because it subliminally affects everybody.
Let us always remember, no matter how difficult it is to put our best playing hat on when we go on the stage, it’s what we have to do to be a professional. We don’t always get hired for our playing ability. Our ability to get along with everybody in the group is a big factor as well.
Through the years, I have encountered musicians, some of them top-notch players, who never quite grasped this end of the music playing business and as a result had problems trying to work and never achieved their potential because nobody wanted to work with them.
This can be as harmful to one’s self as having a drinking or drug problem. The end result is the same. They either get the gig and end up being fired, or they don’t get the gig in the first place. I’ll quote Bobbe Seymour, “The best players don’t always get the best gigs.”
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