If you’ve ever seen the movies 20 Feet From Stardom or Hired Guns, some of what you’re about to read will not sound all that outrageous. However, if you’re not familiar with these two documentaries, then it’s possible you’ll think my veracity is suspect.
A few years back I was doing auditions for bands signed to major labels. There times when they’re about to go on tour and need a musician to replace someone.
There’s a couple of guys in the LA area that are the main sources of getting these auditions out to the musician community. Now quite often it’s the musicians who want to go on these tours that are scrambling to get the auditions by any means they possibly can. That wasn’t my method.
I started getting called up to do these types of auditions. I didn’t know it at the time, but a friend of mine that I had gone to music school with and was now working A&R for a major label told me: “If you’re getting called to do an audition, you are on the A-list.”
Apparently it’s rare for a musician to get the call. Remember, a moment ago I wrote that most guys are calling and scrambling to get these things.
I was driving down Melrose Ave when I got a call to do an audition for an artist. I had heard of him. And I thought, that’s cool, but why would he need a guitar player? He is one, and a damn good one at that. Either way, I was in the middle of a call with another musician friend, a bassist. When I got back on the line with him, I mentioned the audition and he freaked out. He pestered me to find out if they were looking for a bassist too. I told him I’d ask.
I got home that afternoon and a CD was messengered to me. I called to thank the person in charge and put the feeler out for bassist needs. Answer came back they were only looking for guitar players who could play keys or keyboard players who could also play guitar. See it really helps to be a multi-instrumentalist. As you know, I’m primarily a guitarist, but I can play piano too. Which is probably why I got the call.
I had about 48 hours to learn 3 songs and be ready to play them for the audition. Which for most auditions I’ve been called for is 40 more than normal. Those are other stories for other times.
Did my homework, got the songs memorized and went off to the rehearsal spot for the audition. Come to think of it, there were several of these auditions in that exact same room.
When I showed up and was shuffled into the room, there were other people there besides the band. I was quickly introduced then got my guitar out and strapped on. As I was grabbing my cable, the bassist walked over and asked me about an item I had on the headstock called a FatFinger. I explained to him that it was there to help tighten up the low end of the guitar and increase the sustain. He thought it was cool and wanted to get one.
Shortly after he turned away, John walked over and started counting the number of strings on my guitar. He found that I had 7 of them on the guitar that I brought with me. He mused “Seven! We don’t have enough seven string in my band.” Then introduced himself. Yes, that is how I met John Mayer.
We all hopped on stage, plugged in and proceeded to play thru the songs as he called them. I had an immense feeling of satisfaction while playing with him and his band. I was smiling and having a good time. I know that I nailed that audition. Everyone seemed quite pleased. But the best part about it was – I didn’t dwarf him.
See most artists that I had auditioned for were actually not very tall. So at 6’4″ it’s often the height difference that can be the reason for not getting a gig. However, John and I – same height. Whew.
I was told they’d get back to me.
Not long later I did get a call about it. They had gone with a keyboard player who could play guitar, but if he didn’t work out, I needed to be ready. Unfortunately I never got a third call. However, I did enjoy that time and getting to jam with John. He’s a super talented guy and the band he had that day was amazingly solid. Playing in a situation like that is pure joy. The reason? It makes playing easy. When everyone is a monster player, it’s like magic. It’s rare.