By Steven Denyes

In the book Gigging for a Living: Candid Conversations with Independent Working Musicians, author Steve Denyes asks one final question of the musicians he interviewed.

What advice would you give to an aspiring young musician?

Randi Driscoll: Do it. Just go for it. Be true to yourself. You'll know in a really short amount of time if this is really what you're supposed to be doing. The first time you can't pay your rent, the first time you get a heckler, the first time you go into a noisy bar and no one listens to a damn thing you say, when someone in the back is cussing at you because they think you suck, you'll know. If you walk out of there thinking it's still something you want to do, then God love you.

Grey Garner: The first thing is that if you want to be a musician, make sure you know the difference between enjoying playing music and wanting to make it a career. There's a significant difference. It's got to be a part of your core. It's too hard and you'll quit, so save yourself the time if it isn't.

Secondly, if you decide that it is what you want to do, do yourself a favor and learn everything you can about how the music business works. A career in anything requires a knowledge of the industry that you are in. You can't hide behind the fact that you are an artist or a musician because, here again, it's just too hard. Take it upon yourself to learn everything you can about how the business works so that, in the event that you do get an opportunity, you make the most of it.

Jeff Berkley: I would just tell them to enjoy playing music. They're going to get out there and decide for themselves if they want to pursue the business or not. That's either going to kill off their artistic spirit or not. That's not up to me. If you can be a good person and a good artist and give something to other people in your art, everything else seems to fall into place.

Deborah Liv Johnson: Take things one step at a time and enjoy it. Follow your gut but be willing to hear the advice of someone you respect. Learn your craft well, and above all, maintain your sense of humor.

Steve White: Do it for the pleasure in it. Not for anything else. If you can get that and not just think that "If I'm not a star in six months, I'm going to give it up, or if I'm not Segovia in six months, I'm going to give it up." If you can get beyond that and continue to do it, it's a lifetime commitment and it can give you a lifetime's worth of joy.

I'd also tell them that it's OK to emulate but the ultimate responsibility of an artist is to create-not to emulate. Craftsmen can do that. But an artist looks for an original idea or an original approach, or at least looks inside rather than outside.

Shawn P. Rohlf: Stop now before they ruin their lives! No, I'm kidding. I'd tell them to appreciate the traditional forms of music—to study them but to be as creative as they can be with their own music. Be as artistic as you want but understand what came before you. Learn the rules and then break them.

Felix Wohlleben: Be open to all kinds of different music. Try to see all the things that hold these different types of music together. Young people tend to come to music from one little genre that they like. They get hooked on a certain thing and then they want to be a musician. If you want to be a working musician, especially if you want to be a sideman, you have to be able to deal with lots of different stuff. Just be open to different styles of music and listen to everything.

Eve Selis: Stay true to who you are. That's really the most important thing. So many people will tell you, "You're so great! We love everything about you. Now, if you'll just change this, this, this, and this, you'll be a star." They put that carrot out in front of you. This business of music is built on dreams and people can take advantage of that and make you do things you didn't want to do. I'd just say be true to yourself and your art. Doing what makes you happy is ultimately what works in the long run—not what people want you to do.

Bron Tieman: Go for it. Don't do it half-assed. Don't look at anyone as a deity. Just look at them as the challenge. If I had a child, I'd say, "OK, man, but you're going to have to dedicate your life to this craft. It's a beautiful, beautiful craft. Inspire people's lives with music and it's a great, great thing."



Excerpted from Gigging for a Living: Candid Conversations with Independent Working Musicians by Steve Denyes. For more information visit www.giggingforaliving.com.

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