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April 2012: Matt O’Donnell

Why, hello there, friends!

I was just looking, and I noticed that I haven’t gotten my two cents in here in a year! I suppose that makes me a little overdue, right?

I think that one of the nice things that I help provide when I write Editor’s Notes is the journey of a bassist trying to establish themselves firmly in town, while our beloved Dave Fowler is revered at the first mention of his name by anyone who’s heard him at least once in Nashville. I’m just about mid-way through my 4th year here, and it’s becoming plain to see that the idea of this being a “5 year town” is incredibly obvious. I’m lucky enough to be averaging 10-15 pretty well-regarded gigs in town, not counting my weekend’s worth of church. Add to that 3 or 4 road gigs a month and a corporate gig here and there, and it’s beginning to look like I’m a professional, right? Oh, and none of this includes personal endeavors (new record out in the fall, anyone?).

I feel like (if you’ve read any of my previous notes) I’m beating a dead horse here, but I feel like it bears repeating to all of you who are hoping to make your living based of playing…you’ve got to be prepared for success. Preparing for success is by and large a matter of keeping yourself consistent.

When I moved to Nashville, I basically knew a few Dixie Chicks songs. That was it. After spending some time doing freebies for some songwriters, I started to try making money. Novel concept, right? So, I got on the Brandi Thornton gig, and within a few hours, I realized I was screwed. Prime example? My formal music training was pretty firm in establishing that in major keys, the 2 chord (that would be D, if you’re in the key of C) is always a minor chord. Nope, not in old-school country songs. If you’re playing a Hank WIlliams Sr., Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, etc. song, and someone says it goes to the 2 chord, you’re more likely to score with the major chord than not. Just a weird thing, but it’s vital!

I still get caught sometimes playing at the Fiddle & Steel Guitar Bar, which is a big hangout/sit-in situation here (sometimes referred to the Cheers of Nashville). Someone will call a Merle Haggard tune and look at me like I’m an idiot if I don’t know the b-side to the lowest-charting single he ever had. However, I’ve been learning enough songs that it doesn’t take long before I can get the form. I’m down by the 2nd verse and everyone is all smiles at the end.

Obviously, it won’t be all country where you might be, but it’s the same concept. Just be aware of what might be expected of you.

That’s a good first step. Next time, I’ll talk about:

“If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, the critics know it. And if I don’t practice for three days, the public knows it.”

-Louis Armstrong

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