David Grissom On Getting And Keeping The Gig

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR MOST WELL-KNOWN GIGS: Joe Ely, John Mellencamp, and the Dixie Chicks?

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR MOST WELL-KNOWN GIGS:Joe Ely, John Mellencamp, and the Dixie Chicks?

In all three cases I got the gig because I had worked with someone in or very close to the band. With Joe Ely, I knew Roscoe Beck and he got me the gig. With John Mellencamp, I knew all the guys in the band from living in Bloomington and having played in a band with Kenny Aronoff. I filled in on a session that Larry Crane couldn’t make and, when he left the band a year later, they offered me the gig. With the Chicks, I had worked with Natalie Maine’s dad Lloyd for a long time, and I played on most of Emily’s husband Charlie Robison’s records. I didn’t have to audition for any of the gigs.

In a business with high turnover, what are the keys to keeping a gig once you get it?
Being a great player and understanding the music are givens. Beyond that, it comes down to the personality and the extra things you bring to the gig. Background vocals and doubling on other instruments are both a big plus. Being kind, considerate, and fun to hang out with is crucial when you’ve been with the same eight people on a bus for a month. Being able to remain positive and excited about music is a quality that other people pick up on. As a player, I never want to stop growing and I love being around musicians that feel the same way.

You’re a musical director who deals with a lot of sidemen. Talk about what you’re looking for when they come to audition.
You really want the gig? Show up knowing every song on every record of the artist. You’ll probably know the material as good as or better than anyone in the room. The MD will love this— trust me.

Any other advice?
1. Don’t be late. Ever.
2. Don’t noodle at soundchecks and rehearsals, especially when the artist is talking.
3. Don’t forget how lucky you are to be getting paid to play music.