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Courage and Your Music Career

“Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.” ..Erica Jong

I just returned from Toronto where I worked with the band “The Ascot Royals” during my workshop at Canadian Music week.

After the workshop, I received this message from one of the people at the session: “I have to say that your masterclass was mind blowing!  I would never believe that an artist/band can transform into something great within an hour, had I not seen it with my own eyes!”

This feedback came because the band had the courage to take chances in front of a room full of their peers!

Taking risks can be a scary thing. In all the years I’ve worked with artists, I can’t recall one artist who didn’t have an invisible wall of fear – something they were afraid or uncomfortable to try.

If I do my job as a Live Music Producer correctly in the rehearsal room, and if there is freedom to explore ideas, then artist development happens, and the artist will eventually be confronted with their wall of fear.

And if you want to grow as an artist, then you absolutely must have the courage to take chances!

Here are some places to take those chances:

In your planning:  One time I was developing an artist’s #1 radio song.  I’d been listening to it multiple ways and places to get ideas: in the office, before bed, on vacation, through headphones, on my stereo, using different EQ’s to hear different parts pop out.  I got an idea to develop a rhythmic part.

As I began to hear the rhythms in my head, I started getting excited about working with the band, developing the idea.  I could see in my mind’s eye the standing ovation they’d get at the end of the song.

Immediately I experienced a feeling of apprehension and fear: “what if it doesn’t work?”  Not everyone in the band had great rhythm… could we pull off a cool rhythmic thing like this?  So I had a choice to make.  Do I bring the idea to rehearsal, or do I scrap it and have them play it as recorded?  After all, it was a #1 song.  

I chose to take the chance.

In the rehearsal room:  So the band and I started our marathon week of rehearsals working on this #1 song. Most everyone loved my idea and was willing to give it a shot.  But one very vocal guy voiced my immediate fears.  “Dude, it’s a number one song… why mess with it?”  He pulled me aside and said, “Some of these guys have no rhythm.  It’ll never work!”

Because I’d seen the end result in my mind’s eye, I didn’t listen to this guy and my fear.  I told him “let’s give it a shot… besides, your contribution is needed to make this work!” (He actually had great rhythm.)

We spent that entire first day working on the idea, adjusting the complexity of the drum break to fit the players – some had simple parts, some more complicated – and it worked magnificently! Afterward, the dissenter came up and said, “Dude, I thought you were crazy” (this was the first time we’d worked together) “but I’m glad you persisted… this will be the highlight of the show!”

And it was.

On the stage:  There are also times when you’re on the stage when you can take chances.  These would be; when you’re in a groove and the audience loves you… or you’re in front of a hometown crowd where you can do nothing wrong… or on a night when all the planets align… in these situations, listen to your instincts and take a chance. (…probably not when it’s an important gig: opening for a major act, showcasing for a label, or a TV appearance where you have three minutes to perform.)

People who are NOT willing to take risks will have a hard time developing the uniqueness that separates them from other artists.  Some artists develop this uniqueness through their songwriting, their appearance, or their voice.

But taking risks, in planning, in rehearsal, and onstage, is key to developing your uniqueness onstage!

Tom Jackson

Tom is uniquely talented and skilled at transforming an artist's live show into a magical experience for the audience; helping artists at every level create a live show that is engaging and memorable, teaching them to exceed their audiences' expectations and to create fans for life. Tom has taught indie and major artists of every genre. He has worked with Taylor Swift, Le Crae, Home Free, The Tenors, Shawn Mendes, The Band Perry, Francesca Battistelli, Jars of Clay, & many more. Tom also teaches at colleges, conferences and events worldwide.

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