Over the past few months I have seen a very exciting trend of young, middle school to high school-aged rock bands getting signed, touring the world, and make a real impact on social media. First off, I want to congratulate them for making that next big step so quickly, and secondly, I want to emphasize the importance of the younger generation picking up a guitar rather than a laptop to make music.
Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this post if I didn’t have something to add to the discussion, and I think it is something that will resonate with many of you, being a local musician.
These are the 3 key things that I learned from slugging it away in the South Florida scene for seven years:
1) Dependability – You learn very quickly who you can call upon when it’s time to load up the car for a last minute show, or when it’s time to try and get booked at the local venue, or who will be the one that should or should not be the guy talking to the promoter. Admittedly in the beginning, when I was about 11 or 12 years old, my mother was usually the one doing the talking for my band, so I was very lucky to have parents that not only gave me the funds to have a bass and amp, but also gave me examples of great work ethic. It wasn’t till I was about 16 and could drive myself out to shows, that I became confident enough to talk to people. You hear your parents tell you how important it is to be dependable, but you don’t really learn it till you are the only guy loading the PA in with your drummer while others show up late or refuse to touch your gear. Be dependable! Don’t be one of those guys or girls!
2) Determination – Although it was very long time ago, I can vividly remember feeling as if it was never going to happen for me. Maybe the band wasn’t going to work out and I’d have to follow the more clear cut path of college and a career in something else. You learn a lot more about yourself when things start to come apart than when it’s all smooth sailing. People come and go. You meet a great player who just wants to be the weekend warrior for example, but loses interest when you start asking everyone to pitch in for a demo. There were many versions of my local band, I did my best to keep it afloat and hope that one label might call back or show any interest. I can speak only for myself, but I feel very proud of those years in my local act. I learned more trying to pursue music on that level than anything that school could have taught me.
3) Connections – I am reminded daily about the importance of making connections, since Trivium has had countless opportunities from one or more us making connections with other people in the music industry. Business or personal connections go a very long way in this world and many others, and it’s just a fact that the more people willing to pick up the phone to take your call, the better. This is not something I learned overnight, and it was definitely not part of my personality growing up. Being nice is one thing, but being personable and outgoing with others is a totally different ball game. I learned on the local level that meeting other bands and becoming friends with them was important to getting shows for my band. That meant going out to shows that we weren’t booked on in order to support them and just hang out.
Dean, one of my great friends from back home gave me some of my first opportunities to open for his band at a real club, not just the “Battle of The Bands” at my high school or at the local fair. Getting onto those shows introduced me to Greg, the local owner of the Culture Room who gave us quite a few shows, opening for national acts like God Forbid and Diecastto name a few. He is now booking Trivium when we come through Fort Lauderdale. I see this same story play out when we play in cities and towns across America where local acts are opening the shows.
The most important connection of all was meeting Trivium, and keeping in touch over the span of a year or two. Things would be completely different had I not kept in touch and had that one opportunity to fill in playing bass for them. Those windows come and go very fast, and I have never forgot that to this day, even if I have “made it” already, that opportunities for both the band and myself are out there and I should never ignore the chance to meet new people, both inside and outside the music industry.
I could go on for hours and hours about each detail that made me who I am today because of being in a local band for almost 7 years. Making press kits, promotions, making merchandise, recording a demo, and even dealing with an indie label. All I am saying is that I believe that experiencing some or all of the things I mentioned have a real place in making a person ready for this lifestyle should the day come that you are signed and ready to hit the road. Touring and recording at the professional level are not the endgame, but a floodgate for new and more consequential issues. They don’t call this a rollercoaster ride for nothing!
I think that if I had the opportunity to get out and tour at 16, I would have done everything in my power to make it happen. I WAS TRYING!! I can only look back now after all this time to know that having those extra few years to experience the disappointments of the lack of label interest, the amazing highs of a great show, being told your music isn’t what people want to hear, or finishing a brand new song that you can’t wait to play at the show next month feels like. It didn’t prepare me for everything I was going to experience when I joined Trivium, but I do believe that I had a much different outlook on being in a band at 18 years old rather than at 15. You start to pick out the kind of people you want to surround yourself with both musically and personally, and I can attribute all of that to my garage band days.
Good luck to everyone out there trying to make it happen!
-Paolo Gregoletto bass player for Trivium