That’s My Gig’s mission is to prepare our readers for success in the music industry. We are thrilled to introduce our guest writer of the month, Quinton Gibson, guitarist for recent Grammy Award winner, Darius Rucker. Quinton shares the lessons he learned as a young man moving to Nashville, how he got the gig with Darius Rucker, and gives his advice to all aspiring artists, chasing their dreams.
By: Quinton Gibson
Once again, I find myself in the dressing room of an arena preparing for yet another great night on the Darius Rucker “True Believers” Tour! I can hear the screams of the crowd as the opening bands rip through their sets. Show time nears, and I finish my warm up, set my guitar down, and do a few last minute push-ups to get the blood pumping. Once I’m done, I stroll down to our hospitality room to meet up with the rest of the band. We toast our ritual, pre-show shot before we make our way to the stage. We navigate through the backstage halls of the arena, talking and goofing around, until we reach the back of the stage. Suddenly, the house lights go off. Darkness fills the arena as the crowd cheers and the show intro. thunders through the massive PA. I feel the excitement as I put my guitar on, knowing that the next two hours are going to be an absolute blast! On the inside, I’m still that kid from the 80’s that spent his days dreaming about walking on stage and performing in front of thousands of fans every night! This small-town Indiana kid is now living out a lifelong dream. My Grandma had no idea that buying me a KISS Alive II album for my eighth birthday would be the beginning of that dream. Thanks Grams!Now, I look back at that kid with a big dream and reflect on the journey of the man that is now actually living that dream. It’s everything I thought it would be and more.
My time in the world of country music has been nothing short of awesome. The path here was quite interesting. I still remember the day I made the call to Darius Rucker’s management, McGhee Entertainment, about the guitar auditions. I found out about the audition through a few valuable connections that I had made in the industry over the years, and I reached out to the appropriate people. I had never landed a gig from an audition: usually only “word of mouth” referrals. But I figured I had nothing to lose, so why not just call and see where it would lead? I made the call and was told, “No thanks, we have plenty of people auditioning.” I was cool with that, I had no expectations really. But, I made sure to leave my number, just in case something changed. Glad I did, because I received a call from Darius’s management saying, “We haven’t found our guy, here’s the songs, now go learn them.” It was an extremely busy time in my life, I was touring at the time with another artist, and when I was off the road, I was doing studio engineering. I had to shuffle some things around to make quality time to work on learning the audition tunes. I certainly didn’t want to go in and completely blow the audition. So, I sat down and learned the songs. I went into the audition feeling prepared yet still kind of unsure. I was thinking, “Am I playing the right parts? Am I just blowing this whole deal? Could my career be over if I don’t land this?” After all, this is my first attempt at playing country. Yeah, yeah, I know… shameful. I’ll own that. Believe it or not, the audition went decently, but I left not really knowing what to think. Even though I felt prepared going into it, in a way I left feeling like this was a bit of a fail. I remember making a call on the way home, and just saying, “Well, I don’t know what just happened, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.” As fate would have it, I got a second call to come back in and do it all over. This time I went in even more prepared and was eventually offered the gig! I’m thinking, “How could this even be possible? I’m a rock guy. Did this really happen?” Well, yes it did. Hard work, diligence, and determination sums up my entire career. I have always given everything inside of me to accomplish what I set out to do and what I was passionate about. I’ve never cared about the odds, no matter how they stacked against me, or even how risky it was. What fun is life if you don’t take risks, right? I’m determined, but mostly stubborn, and never willing to give up my dream!
My “Coming to Nashville” story probably sounds typically cliché. Big dreams plus big ideas usually end up sounding like this, “Would you like fries with that?” Well, it wasn’t exactly that scenario, but I did have my fair share of crappy temp. jobs while focusing on the task at hand: What can I do today to continue building my career and better myself as a musician? Well, to start off, I had to get real with myself. I had just graduated from college with a double major in Classical Guitar and History. Great plan, right?! I really expected to come to Nashville and start rocking the music scene. And, that didn’t happen! Ha-ha! I quickly had a reality check. I was a tiny fish in a huge pond of incredibly talented musicians. I left Indiana a longhaired, overly-confident kid, and jumped head first into the real world of the music “business”. I had no realistic concept of what it took to be a professional musician but I figured out quickly that it was a combination of some very important aspects. Being a professional musician was not necessarily a measure of how much gear I had, how great of a player I was, who I knew, or even how much I promoted myself blatantly in people’s faces. To make it in the music business, I needed a reasonable balance between all of those things. This is not to downplay the fact that you should be able to handle your instrument and play it well. But, just because you can play your ass off doesn’t mean you’ll always land a gig. Reality check!
So, I decided to come up with a five-year plan to “make it”. It was what I thought would be a great plan. I’ll network, practice, learn all styles, etc. Oh, and yeah, I’ll have to get a job. Crap. That gets in the way, but I have to do it because I was also starting a family, and you have to make money to survive. Uh oh, yeah, now it gets complicated. Me? A dad? This was really going to change things. I really had to focus and get serious. I kept my vision and goals but was now faced with the responsibility of bringing a child into this world. It was a tough adjustment because all I wanted to do, EVER, was play music. Realistically, how the heck was I going to keep doing this music thing?
Like everything else in life, plans change. And so did my brilliant “five-year plan”. However, I kept the heart of my vision: I want to be a musician and make money at it. I always worked to make ends-meet, but I also found ways to make money doing what I loved. I spent time in cover bands, original bands, and did some session work occasionally. Suddenly, in the middle of spinning all of these plates, a few came crashing down.Smack dab in the middle of pursuing my dream, I was faced with a surgery that could officially end my career as a guitarist. Not just one, but two surgeries on my left hand over the course of only one year. I lost all ability to move my fingers or bend my wrist. I could not play guitar at all during this time. I had to physically rehabilitate ferociously. Trust me, it was a crushing experience. I could have easily been depressed, given up, and gone a different direction in life.
Over time, I was able to get my hand rehabbed to where I could play. I’m a completely different player now than I was back then. I like to think I came out on the better end of that deal. Having to completely relearn the guitar made me a much better player in some respects. So I got back to work playing in town again. I also became well connected in the CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) industry, and began playing the hired gun role (sideman). It kept me on the road quite a bit. This was good right? Well yeah, for the most part it was great! It kept me super busy, because I had to juggle multiple gigs at once. It was challenging, but somehow I made it work. I travelled the world quite a few times and saw some amazing sites. It was a season of feast and famine. When the gigs were pouring in it was a very fruitful time, but after that also came the drought. It got tough, and in a short amount of time, I went from being insanely busy to having very little work. It just happens. Artists take breaks and hired guns like myself have to be prepared for those times. So, I prepared for it. I got heavily involved in the studio-engineering world and yet again, through some valuable connections, I started producing commercial spots for radio. It was a very educational time for me because, in all honesty, I knew just enough about engineering to mess everything up! But I had no experience really in producing, especially for radio. What on earth was I thinking doing something like this? Endless nights and many phone calls to “real” engineers helped me through it all. I survived for almost five years, and I am thankful for the experience that came with that period.
Thus brings me back to where I began this article. I left the world of engineering and returned to the road full time with Darius Rucker. Most days are the same: I wake up in a new city, start the day off with a hot coffee, and take a stroll around the venue we’re playing that night. It’s still exciting every day. It’s a complete blessing to be able to do what I do. The road is where musical magic happens for me. I’m honored That’s My Gig asked me to share some of my story with you. My hope is that it will inspire you, or maybe help you, to regain focus. Maybe it will encourage you in some way to stick with your plan or even help you decide on a plan of action. Sometimes you will be frustrated, face adversity, and will have to dig really deep and pull out that drive to keep you going. It’s still there. It’s why you started. Remember? Never let go of the kid that first started this dream. You can grow up and be responsible but don’t let that kid’s dream float away. Have I officially “made it?” If making it means that I’ve made some incredible friends, travelled to some amazing places in the world, made some great music in the process, and still somehow have managed to be a great father to four wonderful kids… Then yeah, I’ve “made-it”!