American Idle – The Fantastic Four Tips for Reviving Rock Stardom
By Chris Marion |
Need to revive a flagging career? Steal - I mean, be inspired by - these four mantras from the studio world
by Chris Marion
Now that I have your attention with the Pulp Fiction of titles, let's get down to the down and dirty of your sad, little version of American Idle – a stalled and flat-lined journey to achieving your rightful place in rock stardom. All rock stars have been there, where the wine, hookups, and gigs for pizza and beer are just not doing it anymore. The thrill is so far gone you can’t even get excited about drunken groupies.
Never fear, crestfallen rock god – your revival rests in applying these fantastic four simple euphemisms from the recording industry to your career and your life. Master these mantras, and you will be moshing through sweaty hordes in no time.
1. Get the Sound Right at the Source
Fixing it in the mix is the king of lazy studio mantras. In recording, often musicians and singers might perform sloppily and depend on the engineer to fix their poor performance by mixing it light or, for a vocal example, tuning or adding effects to a lame performance. But there is no Antares Auto-Tune plug-in for real life. Do it right the first time. Mediocrity is the quickest way to stall your career trajectory.
If you find yourself wondering why clubs or agents are not remembering to call you for booking, maybe it's because you are not giving them anything worth remembering.
- be deliberate
- be diligent
- be determined
2. Rehearse In Red
This is a favorite saying in the fast-paced recording milieu of Nashville, where producers love to get five to six demonstration recordings done in a three-hour session block. Players rehearse the chart while the engineer is already recording and more often than not, that effort ends up with keeper tracks. Yet “rehearsing in red” applies to all music business pursuits – you don’t always get another shot or another call back. Sure, tonight you're in a smoky rat hole bar for that casual sit in on the gig of a friend, but it might lead to the call to sit in on a regular, paid basis. The freebie-backing vocal you contribute to a session might be the one recording that lands the proverbial big shot. Treat every opportunity, every note played, and every melody sung like your career depends on it – it just might.
- make it count
- make it memorable
- make it undeniable
3. Less Is More
In a world of “more me,” creative restraint and discrete minimalism can often be refreshing – making you stand out in a crowd. The music that we are inundated with in every aspect of our daily lives is more often than not over-produced, over-compressed, over-promoted, and consequentially, over before it starts. We live in a world that is mass produced and disposable. Sadly, our art often imitates our life. What can often distinguish an artist is an organic product that has room to breathe. What can make a musical career distinctive is focused, deliberate, selective decision-making to avoid the shotgun effect of inundation. The revived rockstar is:
4. Stick to the Click Track
A drummer friend refers to the click as the annoying sound that tries to distract him from the tempo. In recording, the click track represents the tempo, the pathway and target for which everyone is aiming. In a career sense, a click track is your planning and goal orientation. Developing a written master plan from task to task is like career GPS, because a GPS works by positioning your location against constant satellite points - you know where you are and where you want to go, so you can make a step-by-step plan to get there. Back in the ancient days of your rock and roll hall of fame heroes, they used sextants with the stars in the sky. Perhaps the application here is that you have to follow a star to be a star.
- establish a course based on planning
- stick to the course you plan
- constantly refresh your course based on the reality of your progress
Maybe in your demigod bravado, these fantastic four seem a bit too simplified. Hey rockstar – your America is the one that is idled…
Here is a final simple acrostic (no, I didn't mean "acoustic" - this is a sentence or grouping of words where the first letter of each word also form a related word) that also happens to represent some aging rockers who keep their stardom constantly revived:
Chris Marion is an American musician best known as a member of Little River Band and for his contribution to the gospel and country music industries. Although graduating college with a B.A. in Psychology, he is a classically trained pianist and has worked in the music industry professionally for over 35 years. As a resident of Nashville, he is involved in the recording industry working in the genres of Gospel, Country and Rock. Since 2004, he has toured globally with the classic rock act Little River Band as a keyboardist and vocalist. For more useless trivia and minutiae concerning Chris or to contact him directly, feel free to visit his personal website www.chrismarionmusic.com.