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Step Two – Know the Situation/Artist
Call your friends and ask around. Find out as much info about the artist, management company, tour and job as you can. Try to find out who the artist’s influences are – what bands they like and dislike. If the artist hates The Ramones, you might not want to show up to the audition with their t-shirt on. On the other hand, if you know they’re a huge Van Halen fan – break out the 5150 shirt (unless, of course they hate the Hagar days – you’ve gotta be careful with that band).
It may surprise you what some people’s influences are. In interviews, Michelle Branch lists Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell and The Beatles as influences. You may have some mutual heroes, which can always be a good way to start a conversation.
Find out if the artist is religious, if they have a problem with drinking, smoking, etc. Sometimes you are on a tour where the band members pray before every performance. Will you be cool with that? What if you’re on a tour bus with someone who has a serious drug and alcohol problem? All of these things can be useful pieces of information. I understand that it can be uncomfortable to call people and ask these questions, but if you can find out just one extra detail, it could be the “in” or the “out” that you need.
Step Three – Don’t Overplay
When listening to the record, make sure you check it out on really good speakers. Headphones are almost better sometimes, so you can hear the nuances of the parts you are learning. Nine times out of ten, people just want it to sound “like the record.” Don’t embellish or make up new parts, unless that is what is asked of you – or if you have to. Sometimes there is nothing for you to play in a song and they want to hear you play along.
My good friend Paul Mirkovich (musical director for Pink, Cher, Janet Jackson, RockStar House Band) says he looks for musicians to “play the parts.”
“So many times, people come in and try to impress you by overplaying. When I ask players to improvise, a lot of times – keyboard players especially – will play jazz chords and runs, but it’s amazing how difficult it is for some people to simply play quarter notes in time, to just play a groove.” Good advice.
Well, there is a lot more to cover on this subject, but my editors (Mom, sister Suzie and Adam from Premier Guitar) suggested that I break it up into a series of tips. They are very smart. So, until next month, get rockin’ and good luck!
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