This article was written by our friend Royal “Worth” Weaver IV, we love his name but we just call him Worth. Worth is currently the touring / fill-in guitarist for heavy rock act He Is Legend.
The life of the hired guitarist is at times an¬†interesting one¬†to say the least.¬† Many tasks are expected from you as the hiree and the performer.
You are expected or required to have (sans¬†the ability¬†to play your¬†instrument¬†of course) professional equipment that won‚Äôt fall apart after 2 shows, a ‚Äúmarketable‚Äù appearance, the workings of how things¬†operate at a gig/performance, and a positive attitude.¬† After all‚Ä¶ you do get paid to do this.¬† It is your job,¬†not only to play guitar every night, but to play guitar well.¬†
There are other postscripts and additions that coincide with the position of a hired guitarist.¬† What really separates a¬†guy who will get the job done from someone who is far and beyond perfect¬†for the¬†position?¬†
After¬†12 years of being a professional guitarist and doing everything from studio sessions¬†to multi-national tours; I have¬†(humbly) tried to pinpoint these things that separate the mediocre from the excellent in the field of the hired guitarist.
One:¬† Be completely open initially to the bands intentions, attitude, and interactions.¬† This is a must.¬† This is¬†something that can‚Äôt really be taught- you must sit back and observe where you fit as a hired gun when conversing with the band.¬† The¬†fine¬†line of playing with the band and¬†being a member of the band is not exactly as easy to interpret as it may seem.¬† After months in the van/bus and another couple in the studio; one may think that he/she has the right to have a say in how band business is¬†handled.¬† This is¬†a most certain and impending doom for you and your job.¬†¬†If you are asked your opinion of the¬†new album artwork or if this song‚Äôs tempo is too fast, by all means give it.¬† But be cautious in raising your voice¬†during a heated discussion amongst¬†the band¬†members.¬† The band is THEIRS.¬† They got the band where it is without you, and if they had concern for your input they would ask.¬† ¬†
Two: Be very aware of the image of the band.¬† Is this a super-strict Christian band?¬† Or is the band endorsed by Jager and Trojan?¬† Usually this is rather obvious from the onset of the position; but I have been in an act¬†where a contract was enforced upon me (signed and sealed) to forbid me from cursing, drinking, smoking, and taking the Lord‚Äôs name in vain in front of fans.¬† Strict?¬† Absolutely.¬† But monetarily it was very rewarding (and also served as a two month vacation for my lungs and liver.).¬† Some bands are incredibly fickle (no long hair‚Ä¶ no visible tattoos‚Ä¶ no pink items of clothing‚Ä¶ etc); but some are more lenient.¬†
Three:¬† Be aware of your sound/stage performance.¬† Do the members of the band act like mentally impaired 4th graders on crack while performing?¬† Or do the band members expect you to remain relatively still and play everything perfectly in time with the pulsating click track in your right ear?¬† Also, don‚Äôt put every distortion box in creation on your pedal board if you‚Äôre playing with a more mellow act.¬† Yes‚Ä¶ it looks amazing and expensive‚Ä¶ but you will be more than tempted on many occasions to turn at least three or more on for that solo part that should be waaaaaaaaaay quieter than what you are about to make it.¬† It is all about knowing where you fit in the band‚Äôs audio spectrum and selecting equipment to get you there.¬† Don‚Äôt bring out the two 4×12 cabs if you are heading on tour with Norah Jones or John Mayer‚Ä¶ for goodness sake use your combo amp and save yourself (and the other band members) a few chiropractic bills later on down the road.
Four:¬† Go above and beyond the call of duty when it is your turn to drive/sell merch/load in or out.¬† The band will see this extra effort and will (hopefully) recognize that you do care about your job and want the best for the band/tour.¬† Laziness has no place for the hired guitarist when it comes to these things.¬† This is the unspoken part of your job that must be performed well or your reputation will suffer severely.
‚Ä®Five:¬† Talk to fans as if you are a proud member of the band.¬† More often than not this is easier said than done.¬† Some kids go absolutely crazy over something that you are now somewhat apart of.¬† Embrace them and make them feel like you love what you do.¬† Sign every autograph (at nauseum) even when the other band members are no where to be found.¬† This is making a kid‚Äôs dream come true; and you never know if you just shook the future Stevie Ray Vaughan‚Äôs¬†or Steve Vai‚Äôs hand.¬† Be as humble as humanly possible (even though you do have the overnight drive in a few hours), don‚Äôt take your position in the ‚Äúspotlight‚Äù for granted.¬† This is yet another unspoken but absolutely necessary part of your position that will (hopefully) put you in good graces with the band.
After that amended list of the five do‚Äôs (or do not‚Äôs rather?); it brings me to my most recent fill in job that turned into a more permanent fixture in¬†my guitar playing life—HE IS LEGEND.
A rather odd occurence (and I will herald the almighty Myspace for this one) in me procuring this position.¬† After current guitarist and primary song writer Adam Tanbouz contacted me about the vacant position; I found myself in the place of that negative ‚Äúhere we go again with another tour‚Äù.¬† That disappeared when the name of the tour was shortly mentioned near the end of the conversation‚Ä¶ ‚ÄùTHE PEANUT BUTT TOUR‚Äù.¬† See above step 2.¬† I thought ‚Äúso maybe this band isn‚Äôt really¬†as uptight as some others I‚Äôve been associated with‚Äù.¬† I even think there was a brief talk about getting JIF to sponsor the tour‚Ä¶ a big Keanu Reeves ‚Äúwoah‚Äù.¬† Not Jager.¬† Not Trojan.¬† Not PBR.¬† But JIF Peanut Butter.¬†
But even with those feelings in the back of my head (of the lack of up-tightness), I worked harder than I ever had before for a tour/band.¬† A lot was demanded from me mentally, physically, and musically; but I found myself not only loving every second of the tour; but also relishing in the friendships that were forming¬†as a result.
Adam and I were the coffee and guitar nerds of the tour.¬† It was usually our¬†mission after load in to find the best cup of iced coffee the town had to offer.¬†I think Seattle won.¬† And I think we are¬†probably¬†the worst in the universe for tweaking and re-tweaking our guitar amps/pedals.¬† Adam is a rather soft spoken individual; but everything he says is quite meaningful and precise.¬† I admire him as a player and writer, and would¬†walk through any¬†ghetto in the¬†nation with him due to his rather menacing initial appearance.¬†
Steve and I enjoyed one thing¬†and one thing only.¬† Sarcasm.¬† We never failed to use it to¬†the fullest extent at a moment‚Äôs notice.¬† There were a couple of times where our¬†air drumming became incessant on the over-night drives;¬†but it was all to keep us¬†from¬†ending up capsized in a median (which actually happened when I was driving—entirely different blog there).¬† Being that Steve didn‚Äôt¬†play to a click (metronome), it was rather difficult for me¬†to initially play with him.¬† But as I found out more about him and his personality I was able to see more into his musical performance on drums as well.¬†¬†And¬†Steve really likes¬†cats, the mandolin, and Queens of the Stone Age with a passion.¬† And there was that one time in Shelbyville‚Ä¶ ¬† probably one¬†of the funniest¬†dudes you will ever meet.¬†¬†
Schuylar Croom is one of those individuals¬†you immediately take notice of when he enters a bar/restaurant/church/ballroom/bathroom.¬† An amazing writer with a huge affinity for porkskins and cheese omelets, we spent many of our conversations on the more simple things in life.¬† This was a bit surprising to me as Schuylar is an incredibly in-depth individual with a view of the world like few you will ever meet.¬† But regardless of such things‚Ä¶ we talked mainly about cooking and foods‚Ä¶ and of course our unearthly obsession with video games.¬† I don‚Äôt even think we turn off our Xbox 360s anymore.¬† Also a phenomenal performer and lyricist‚Ä¶ an excellent memory of my very first show was getting smacked on my¬†left ass cheek with a magnolia leaf during the opening song‚Ä¶ this most certainly confirmed my theory of the afformentioned Step 2.
MattyWheelFaceDoomChair.¬† Ahhhhhh Matty.¬† Matt was my¬†”bunk buddy‚Äù (and ‚Äúdrinking buddy”)—meaning that when the hotel¬†rooms were¬†given out‚Ä¶ I was sleeping with¬†Matt.¬† Matt loves to sleep.¬†¬†If a nuclear explosion were to happen right after an earthquake that¬†produced¬†a marching band of rabid wolverines‚Ä¶ Matt would¬†still be¬†asleep.¬† Soundly.¬† But I really love this dude (not in a sleeping with him way though).¬† We¬†had¬†some¬†really dumb conversations about life‚Ä¶ and some really excellent conversations about life.¬†¬†We¬†were both stage right—and had a few nights where his ridiculously long hair would become entangled in the headstock of my guitar.¬†¬†Great memories of me looking up at¬†Matt‚Äôs cringing face just screaming ‚ÄùSTOPSTOPSTOP!!!!!!!‚Äù.¬†¬†We developed a part¬†in a song every night where¬†he would also intentionally bite the headstock of my guitar.¬†¬†Yes. Complete with teeth marks.¬† Great¬†guy¬†that‚Äôs hard to¬†hate.
Well passersby‚Ä¶ hopefully I have given you an insight of what‚Äôs it like to be a¬†professional fill in guitarist for¬†HE IS LEGEND.¬† After the tour the¬†band asked me on board full-time; so I suppose hard work does pay off after¬†all.¬† As far as what to physically ‚Äúdo‚Äù about filling in with any band‚Ä¶ just practice, work, have a good attitude, and have fun.¬† That‚Äôs why we should all be doing this ‚Äúmusic‚Äù thing anyways.¬†¬†Looking forward to letting you all hear the¬†new¬†tunes and seeing you out on the¬†road.¬†