One of the most exciting aspects of being a full-time musician is that every phone call has the potential to change the trajectory of your career… or at least create some great memories!
One day I received a phone call from a friend who owned a guitar company. A popular game show, The Price is Right, was going to be giving away one of his guitars as a prize, and they needed someone to showcase it on the show.
Initially, I thought this would be a simple gig - they announce the prize, the curtain opens up, then I’d play some riffs using a variety of tones. I even spent an afternoon programming sounds into my pedalboard, and creating my 'Price is Right Guitar Montage.'
The Reality Check...
"Easy enough," I thought, "I’ll just create something new while I’m waiting in the green room."
But the guitar had been sitting in the show's non-climate controlled storage for over 6 months, and was all out of whack! The neck had bowed, throwing the intonation out. The strings were old and dead, and if you've ever tried to quickly re-string a guitar with a floating tremolo, you know what a chore it is to get back in tune! Needless to say, there was work to do, and the countdown to filming the show was on.
Although my buddy was working as fast as he could to get the guitar setup in such a short amount of time, it wasn’t complying.
Meanwhile, I didn’t have a chance to even check my sound levels, or dial in a tone. The sound guy took off with my guitar rig, and I didn't see it after that.
I thought, "this is going to be BAD!!" But even worse, once the show starts, there’s no stopping and fixing anything - it's recorded in 1 take, no reshoots!
Here It Comes...
Around the 5 minute mark, they brought me down to the side of the stage where a makeup artist put powder on my face, and sprayed my hair.
At the 4 minute mark, I was finally handed the guitar - still a bit out of tune! The sound guy reappeared, hooked up a wireless unit, and asked me to play some chords. He could hear it in his headphones... I heard nothing!
This is going to be BAD...
At the 3 minute mark, I was feverishly tuning the stupid thing, realizing that my career a professional guitarist was about to implode on national television, and there was nothing I could do about it!
At the 2 minute mark, a stage hand took the guitar back for a final final polish. I pleaded for him to polish it while I continued to play with the tuning… that wasn't going to happen.
This is going to be BAADDD!!
At the 30 second mark, with the guitar back in my hands, I again started feverishly tuning.
The assistant stage director was next to me with a clipboard and headset. She had one hand on my back, and another on the curtain.
Her countdown started: “10… 9… 8….” I still had no idea what I was going to play, or what sound the amp was set to!!
"7... 6... 5..."
“You’re on!” And with a gentle push I was out on the stage - every muscle in my body was trembling... I could feel it all the way into my cheeks. I heard the muffled announcer under all the audience noise. My thought was, "well, if this is it, let's go out with a bang and at least try to look cool!"
In under a minute, it was over... I left, picked up some chocolate chip cookies on the way home, and didn't tell anyone (except mom) when the episode would be airing. I was convinced it was atrocious!
My initial vision and expectations of this experience were cast aside, in favor of the vision of the show’s producers. Everything I planned for was thrown out the moment I got there.
What was really interesting, however, is that it became clear to me how many people I know watch the Price Is Right. By noon on the day it aired, my phone and e-mail had blown-up!
The lesson: As musicians and creators, our role is to serve the vision of the directors, script writers, and producers of the projects we are working on. Our music helps them tell their story - not ours!
While my vision of standing behind a curtain that opens up to reveal me playing some amazing and creative guitar riffs fit my narrative, it didn’t fit theirs. I ended up playing a boring 3 chord progression using an overly distorted sound. But, looking back - it wouldn’t have been as exciting and entertaining to the audience viewing at home!
As stressful as it was at that moment, this is one of my favorite and most humorous musical memories. I always have to laugh when I think of the absurdity of it all!
Sitting at home, writing music for TV shows, is a lot easier than playing on them!
What are your most humorous, or terrifying, moments on stage? Share with us in the Comments Section below:
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