Posted: 20 July 2018
How did you get into being a session musician?
Ever since I started playing guitar I had always dreamed of being a professional musician. I've always been fascinated with every aspect of music, from playing and performing to writing and recording. I became totally obsessed with recording and used whatever I could get my hands on to record. Lots of terrible cassette players! Then in high school, my band needed a demo for the battle of the bands. I met a family friend who had a studio and liked my stuff so much he offered to produce me and took me under his wing. I practically lived at that studio for a few years writing and recording tons of stuff. A few years later I got my first paid gig with a young pop rock artist and began the hustle.
Which Marshall amps are you using and why?
Currently my handwired 50w Plexi is my main amp and it's everything. I love that amp and can cover so much ground with it. I have a JTM45 Bluesbreaker that I absolutely love as well for more cleaner, pushed tones and a little Class 5 that has been super useful as a small practice amp as well as great in small clubs as an added compact stereo channel alongside of either my Plexi or the JTM45.
Which artist are you currently working with at the moment?
I'm currently working with Andy Grammer and have been for the past 5 years. He is my primary artist and one of the best human beings on this planet!
Which artists have you worked with?
Besides Andy, I have worked with Julia Michaels, Rachel Platten, Alex and Sierra, Fifth Harmony, Bridgit Mendler, Colbie Calliat, Ariana Savalas, Toots and The Maytals, Pia Toscano, Jared Lee, Agina Alvarez, and Buddy Miles (Jimi Hendrix) just to name a few.
What is a typical day like for you?
We do more fly shows on average than bus tours. So besides sitting on an airplane, a typical show day for me is lots of prep and maintenance on stage around our sound checks. I'm in charge of all the techy/nerdy stuff on our stage including our playback system, a TelePrompter, and most of the guitars on stage. I take care of all of Andy's guitars as well as mine and try to keep everything in order. It's super fun when a rental company brings out vintage Marshalls for me to play with. Most of the companies know me now and will bring out the good stuff for me to use.
What’s the most memorable moment you’ve had so far in your career?
Besides playing the Hollywood Bowl which was super epic, I would say the most memorable moment was doing the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day halftime show with Andy a little over a year ago. Our Front of House engineer and I did all the recording and production for the show which included a full drum line and a huge choir. We ended up playing in front of a sold out stadium of 65,000 people and it was broadcast in front of around 30 million viewers. Definitely a ‘pinch yourself cause you've worked your butt off for this’ kind of moment.
How do prepare for touring and studio work?
They are two radically different beasts. In a nut shell, touring is all about reliability and consistency which usually means streamlining and simplifying things to eliminate as many variables as possible. I tour with a Fractal and my Marshalls. They have been super reliable and sound great.
The studio is all about creating and fostering as much "magic" as possible and really thinking outside of the box to create something unique…even if it's held together with duct tape. It's the perfect time to bring out the super fragile high end stuff or vintage guitars that I would never risk taking on the road. I usually bring way too much gear to my sessions but always end up using a lot of it including some of my really weird pieces like an old Bakelite tube radio amplifier with an Atari power supply. It sounds so freaking cool but obviously I could never tour with something like that.
Is it hard to adapt your sound to different artists?
Never. I've always loved picking apart guitar tracks on a record and replicating the parts and tones as painstakingly accurate as possible. It keeps me sharp and up to date with lots of the current sounds. I will say that it can really be difficult these days especially when you get a song with tons of synth or keys parts and no guitars. Then you play the game of either writing a part that might make the song feel and come across really different—which is sometimes really cool—or just trying to "blend in" and replicate one of the synth parts as closely as possible with guitar.
How do you find work?
It's all about being social in this business. You have to go out and meet people. When I get back from touring, I make lots of phone calls, post online etc to let as many people as possible know that I am in town and available for work. It's also very useful to refer your fellow musicians for work too when you are busy. So many times that ends up with a friend thinking of me and returning the favour with a referral for something that they can't do.
What advice would you give to young people wanting to work as a session musician?
Play on as many things as you can. Watch and learn from your favourite musicians. YouTube is an immensely powerful tool. Learn how to sight read or at least read charts. Sight reading is something I wish I spent more time with. All the big time session players can sight read anything and make it sound amazing. Oh, and you must have amazing tone!