I’ve been contemplating how to stand out from the sea of amazing Nashville musicians lately, and thought I’d share some of my thoughts with you all. Here are 5 things I’m going to try and focus on in the next few years as I develop my career:
1. Do something nobody else does.
Even if it’s tiny, finding a niche will set you apart from everybody else that does what you do. There’s a very successful bass player friend of mine in Nashville that recently landed a gig playing bass and hammer dulcimer on a major tour. He’s a good bassist, but having the extra instrument helped put him to the top of the list.
2. Keep your word.
It’s simple: if you say you’re going to do something, do it. There are several musicians that I’ve not been able to give recording work to because I can’t trust that they’ll turn in their tracks in time. The more consistent you are, the more you’ll be trusted with important stuff.
3. Limit yourself, and pour insane amounts of effort into the things you do.
I’ve been guilty of this in the past, and it’s still the #1 challenge in my career. I’ve found that every time I cut out the stuff in my life that doesn’t matter that much (obsessively reading about music gear, for instance), the things that are left become so much more fun. Also, I end up really shining because I’ve spent the time.
4. Choose to work with great people.
It’s possible to actually damage your career by working with sub-professional people for long periods of time. A few years ago I agreed to play in a band that was terrible- the people were really kind, but they weren’t very professional and hadn’t spent the time to master their instruments. I ended up turning down career-building gigs because I was playing with them. Never settle for playing music you can’t find something to be passionate about.
5. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of what’s going on around you in the moment. As an artist with a wandering mind, focusing on what’s going on in the moment has been transformational to me.
About a month ago, I spent over two hours trying to figure out how to wire a particularly difficult midi setup for a tour. I finally got so frustrated, I walked away for a coffee break. When I came back, I realized that the audio interface I’d been putting my water bottle on while I was quietly pulling my hair out for the last two hours fixed every problem I had been fighting. If I’d been aware of everything going on around me instead of obsessing on one approach, I could have saved myself two hours of work.