My focus with the In-Tune Guitar Academy over the past year and bit has been interviewing fellow musicians, especially guitarists. Not exclusively guitarists mind you, since my last interview was with a drummer. Since March of 2022, I’ve had the honour of interviewing:
Darren Michael Boyd
Kelly Coughlin, on more than one occasion
And most recently, my close friend, Michael Drolet, whom I’ve known since primary school.
Looking at that list, my first thought is: I know a lot of guys named Michael or who have Michael in their name, but seriously…
It has quite an eye-opening and educational journey. I’ve learned a lot about what makes other musicians tick and how they see the world of music. In the processs, I’ve also learned a lot about myself and learned to improve my video capturing and editing skills. I still cringe, looking back at the Tim Bedner interview and how badly I overexposed some of the footage and had my key light shining too brightly on him. That experience led to my purchase of a 7” on camera LCD monitor – a true godsend.
That device helps me better compose my shots and helps me catch mistakes like incorrect exposure much quicker. As great as the flip around view screens are on my cameras, they are small and are really hard to properly see from about 10 feet away. That is about the distance I usually sit from my cameras during interview videos.
I still struggle with lighting and exposure occasionally, but I think I’ve come a long way in my video production career. I also feel that my composition has improved. It’s all a gradual and iterative process. With study, practice, and patience, I will get to where I want to be with my video skills. The irony about writing a blog about guitar and shooting and editing videos about guitar, is that my time to play and practice guitar has taken a serious hit. With a full-time job and family, it’s hard to fit it all into my free time, try as I might.
I am grateful to all the people I’ve interviewed for taking the time and expending the effort to share with me their thoughts and feelings about playing guitar and what it means to be a musician. I am also very thankful towards those of you who have put me in touch with some of these musicians who I didn’t know or didn’t know very well.
Cooperation and collaboration are of two key elements that I’ve retained from this series of interviews. Music is much like team sports in that the sum of the parts is more important than any individual contributor. Talent and preparedness definitely count, but chemistry is the critical factor that holds everything together. It’s that EQ that so many people talk about – your emotional quotient, your soft skills, or your people skills. However you want to define this trait, it all comes down to the golden rule they taught us about in school – treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. Sometimes as headstrong adults, we tend to forget that very important rule and we can be quite horrible to one another. I am as guilty of that as anybody.
But it’s not just collaboration with your bandmates. For truly great live musical performances to occur, musicians must collaborate with their audience. The best performers know how to connect with their audience and almost have a conversation with them. Connecting with your audience makes them your friends for a brief period and I believe, helps you overcome, or at least manage, stage freight.
How do you get to that level of confidence? You have to be confident in yourself as a musician and confident in yourself as a person. You achieve that trough study, practice, and rehearsal. When you know your songs (even those you write yourself, trust me on that one) at such an in-depth level that you can play them without prompts or cheat sheets, you’re at that level. It’s when you remember the lyrics and can recite them without hesitation. It’s the famous 10,000-hour rule. It’s the maxim that says the more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.
It takes passion to be that dedicated to your craft. It takes tenacity to see it through and to practice even when you don’t feel like it. To push yourself that little bit extra. To study just a little more.
Band dynamics are important too. Not just the touchy-feely empathy type of dynamics, but also knowing how others will react to what you do and predicting what they will do. It’s leaning from each other, depending on each other, and supporting each other. To cover for someone else’s mistakes, not single them out. To support them when they fall down. To understand why they want to do or not want to do something that you want to do.
It involves relationship management and sharing of responsibilities. It also involves building a consensus where everyone in the band feels valued, appreciated, and heard. Respecting one another’s wishes and disagreeing gracefully with one another. Again, easier said than done.
From a technical standpoint, timing is critical. But it can be so challenging at times, for everyone to play in time with each other. You have to trust that your bandmates will know their parts when playing live and you have to build that trust with the others in your band. I am also somewhat surprised about how little the technical skills came up during our conversations, in comparison to the more deeper philosophical and almost spiritual aspects of music. Things like tone, knowing your scales, notes, and chords are most definitely important, but what really seems to enthrall my interviewees are more of the emotional aspects of music.
I’ve also learned that all the musicians I’ve interviewed have a deep love of and respect for music. Not just of the music they play and listen to, but of all forms of music. All of them spoke so passionately of their musical influences and of the music they listen to, and grew up listening to. When you are a musician, it is all encompassing. It’s a way of life that outsiders struggle to understand.
It’s just the start of my journey. I hope to continue interviewing different musicians of all ages and levels of ability. I find it so enlightening and so fascinating to talk to other musicians about their musical backgrounds and what led them to where they are today. It’s encouraging that there are so many dedicated and passionate musicians around. It motivates and inspires me when I listen to their stories and their philosophies of life and of music.
Everyone really does have a story to tell and I am ready to listen to those musicians who are ready to share their stories. I just hope that you, my readers and viewers, are as interested in those stories as I am.
Here is a link to my latest interview video: