After maintaining a long streak of Top 10 and Top 40 hits during her career, Tanya Tucker took time off to be with her family. To country music’s gain, she’s back and is on the road for her 2015 tour! Tanya kicked off her road trip, with two sold-out shows, and she isn’t slowing down; concerts all over the U.S. and a few Canadian dates are all on the docket. Additional dates will be added to her already-packed schedule, and we are so excited to have two That’s My Gig’ers, David Myhre and Brian Seligman, on the tour as band-leader/lead guitarist and utility player! We caught up with the guys to hear all about their recent audition process and to find out what it’s like touring with a country music legend.
By: Bri Blaire
TMG: Guys, thanks so much for taking the time to share your stories. We are stoked for you both, to have landed the gig- touring with Tanya Tucker! What was your gig/touring experience prior to the Tanya gig?
DAVID: Thanks for having me! I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and the music scene is a little different there. I started a band in sixth grade and began developing my skills alongside my closest buddies. By the time I graduated high school in 2010, I was ready for Nashville. The Anchorage music scene provided me with a great start, and I love playing around town whenever I have the chance. Shortly after I moved to Nashville, I was asked to be the lead guitarist for the rock band Static Cycle. We toured all over the U.S., opening and headlining for major acts, and sleeping in sketchy hotels and cramped vans. It was my first touring experience and it was awesome. After about a year of touring I settled back into Nashville, writing, recording, and touring with various acts. At heart, I’m a blues/rock guitarist, but playing with diverse musicians has allowed me to grow stylistically & personally as an artist. Recently I was in the country/rock band Oklahoma, and now I am finishing my own record. One of the highlights of my career so far was when I performed with The Band Perry at the 47th CMA Awards. I also had the opportunity to be the lead in Kid Rock’s new music video “First Kiss”. It was fun driving his truck around East Nashville.
BRIAN: I moved here from Toronto having played for a Juno award-winning artist, Shad, up in Canada, among other indie bands and film & television projects. I had one friend in Nashville that happened to be a really good person, who helped me get out here. His biggest note that I remember, when I first got here, was “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” In other words, it takes time to get off the ground. I got myself a day job so I didn’t come across as needy to any artists I was talking with. I was never begging for money or a gig, I always had my bases covered so things could stay cool and casual. I went to a few jams, but decided my path was going to be through making real friends and connections over a long period of time, and I accepted that early on.
TMG: Now, being a part of a country music legend’s band must be an amazing feeling. How were you selected to audition?
DAVID: I got the call from Tanya’s manager, Danny, who also manages Dolly Parton, Richie Sambora and my friend Candi Carpenter- who I’ve been writing with since I moved to Nashville. Danny was familiar with my writing/playing and being the awesome guy he is, he called and asked if I wanted to be Tanya Tucker’s band leader/lead guitar player and vocals. I was stoked. Rehearsals were coming up in a few weeks and we had a lot of work to do.
BRIAN: It was a series of events. My friend, mentioned above, had recommended me for a gig with a Sony/Columbia artist. I met with him and we ended up hitting the road a little bit that summer. David was gearing up to be the other guitarist for that same gig, so I met him at a rehearsal. David later had to leave for schedule conflicts. About a year later, I was on the road with a very busy indie band and Derek Williams, pro-guitarist and That’s My Gig’s CEO, was texting me about an audition opportunity involving keys and utility instruments with Tanya Tucker. Derek gave David my number as a direct referral for the gig. After David texted me, I immediately got on the phone with him to express my interest, and I reminded him that we had met about a year ago at a rehearsal. Being able/willing to play a number of instruments was likely the most appealing aspect of my resume.
TMG: The songs in Tanya’s repertoire include a heavy list of hits: with lyrics she has actually lived, not just performed. It must have been overwhelming to think about. How did you prepare for the audition rehearsals and shows?
DAVID: After the band was formed, we learned 35-plus songs, many of them being her biggest hits. We rehearsed as a band for a week, getting the arrangements and vibe of the songs figured out. Tanya came in on March 17th, which happened to be my 23rd birthday, and that rehearsal was pretty much my audition. I was pumped to play for such an iconic singer.
BRIAN: We were given a list of songs and were asked to learn them note for note from the record. Since I was playing keyboard utility, this meant building patches that sounded like the record as well as learning all the songs. I made charts, but focused on learning the songs through my ear first, the charts were just a reference, something I highly recommend to everyone. When Tanya arrived for rehearsal, it turned out we were doing many songs that weren’t on the list as well. The arrangements and keys had dramatically changed from the studio recordings. We had to think quickly and keep our heads above water during these rehearsals. It was a real challenge musically.
TMG: Tanya, being a country music icon, and now a staple in the classic country family, must have been looking for a very specific look and sound in her band members. Did her management make that clear before the audition, and if so, how did you ready yourself for their requests?
DAVID: Our goal was to make it sound identical to the record. This is a great way to replicate the original tone and direction of the music. Management was wanting a new fresh band while keeping the heart of the music in tact. I grew up listening to all the greats, from Jimi Hendrix to The Eagles. Along the way, I started listening to more mainstream country and the classic stuff my dad had on cassettes. The first thing I did to prepare for Tanya, was get my Telecaster and pedal board dialed in. I charted out all the songs and learned the main parts while adding my own twist. As for the look, I’m in cowboy boots and jeans 99% of the time, so that was easy.
TMG: What was the audition space like, and what gear did you bring to the audition?
BRIAN: There was no traditional audition, rehearsals simply started for about 5 days, then Tanya arrived for another week or so- to prepare for a weekend run. That whole process, including the weekend run, was essentially my audition- about a month of time in total. They had a fairly large space equipped with lights and banners and everything. I play guitar, keys, mandolin, dobro and lap steel. I brought just about everything I could think, so I had it all on hand. I use a 72RI Thinline Tele, a hyrbrid pedal board that has a few signal paths for both acoustic and electric instruments. It includes the Fulltone OCD, MXR Carbon Copy, TC Hall of Fame, Ernie Ball volume pedal for the guitar and lap steel. I use the Fishman Aura and the Radial EZPre for the Dobro. My keyboard rig is built on Logic’s Mainstage, which I think is a fantastic way to cover all your bases with just one keyboard.
DAVID: The rehearsal space was connected with the management office, so we had our own big private room to live in for the month. I actually ended up using one of their 65 watt Music Man Amps. My board had a Keely-4 knob compressor, MXR modified O.D., Phase 90, Tremolo, Line 6 DL4 delay, and a reverb pedal. I brought my Gibson Les Paul, Fender Telecaster, and my Taylor 114 acoustic. I use the new D’Addario NYXL’s on all my guitars, which I highly recommend.
TMG: Do you feel like you would have done anything differently, gear-wise or playing-wise, if you could go back in time and re-audition?
DAVID: Overall, I felt like I did as much as I could with the time and information given. Now that we’ve done a few shows and rehearsed, it’s under my fingers much better. I did revamp my pedal board and it’s more suited to the sound and is blending better with both of my guitars. Jamie Scott of Third Power Amp’s has been super helpful finding me the right amp. I plan on getting the British Dream MKII in the near future.
BRIAN: Oh geese… always, always, always. I’m constantly taking my own notes. I suppose, gear wise, I would consolidate everything into a good-looking bundle right off the bat. I had to figure out, during rehearsals, how I was going to seamlessly switch between 5 instruments during the show: also, make sure a laptop isn’t covering my face… sounds obvious now. I have a pretty solid keyboard utility rig now that I’m proud of!
TMG: How did you feel after the audition month over?
BRIAN: We were always on our toes for that first month, making sure I brought my “A game”, when it came to musical performance, was important to me. And consistency was something that Tanya and management noticed. You had to take a note/correction and play it right- from then on, every time.
DAVID: There’s always room for improvement, but overall I felt pretty good. We went right into it and ran a bunch of songs, and found what keys work best for Tanya. I actually put a set of 11’s on my Tele and tuned it a whole step down. You have to be very quick on your feet and able to transpose to whatever key is thrown out.
TMG: What do you think set you apart from the other candidates vying for the gigs?
BRIAN: I think just being able/willing to play many instruments, I think that’s the strength of a “utility” player.
TMG: Many budding side-musicians don’t realize how much “personality” plays a role in the hiring process for a major artist and their “camp”. How do you feel your personality clicked with the Tanya camp, and why do you feel it’s so important to “gel”, not just musically, on a major tour?
DAVID: Personality definitely plays a role in the touring world. As a band member for an artist like Tanya, it’s your responsibility to be that anchor on stage, musically, and be present at all times. It makes the touring experience so much better if you gel and enjoy being with your band mates and crew. Everybody on the team is awesome, and great to hang with. The best advice I can give is… just be easy goin’ and have common sense.
BRIAN: I think just being able to listen to everyone around you, musically and verbally, is an easy note to remind yourself of- going into a rehearsal/audition. Don’t just plow through with your ideas: a strange combination of being proactive and passive. Something I’m always working on: the mental game.
TMG: Once you were hired, officially, how much rehearsal time did the band have before the next tour dates?
DAVID: We were fortunate to have most of the month of March to rehearse with Tanya. I also spent time on my own practicing. Let’s just say my roommate was a good sport.
TMG: Did it take long for the band to find its groove?
BRIAN: Yes it took time for everyone to get settled in. We had the help of one of Tanya’s bandleaders from the past, to teach us some of her idiosyncrasies- that we would have otherwise had no idea how to approach. He was a key element to the band coming together.
DAVID: The groove took a bit, but we found it! This gig has been a great learning experience for me. The detail and the musicianship on Tanya’s records from the 60’s through the 90’s is killer. The groove in the classic country stuff is so important, and underestimated. I didn’t grow up playing a ton of country, so I’ll be the first to admit there was a learning curve, but it’s definitely made me a better musician.
TMG: What have the highlights of your touring experience with Tanya Tucker been so far?
BRIAN: The fan reactions are incredibly overwhelming. Her fans are the most loyal I have ever seen! You wonder how you ended up being on stage with her- when she starts a few of her biggest hits and the fans go crazy
DAVID: Some of the highlights for me have been singing a duet with Tanya at our first show and seeing the crowd flip when we go into “Delta Dawn”. Her fan base is super passionate and ready for her to get back out on the road.
TMG: What can Tanya Tucker fans expect for the rest of 2015?
DAVID: The fans can expect a lot more shows this summer and fall. We’re excited to be playing the Riverfront June 13th, for CMA Fest- and some more cool shows down the road.
TMG: What are 3 key factors that have helped you to get to this point in your music career?
BRIAN: One I think is obvious, practice hard and always strive to be great. Don’t settle in your playing for mediocrity- just always try to be truly great! Two is… don’t give up. I think those two elements will get most musicians to where they want to be. Three, don’t beat yourself up, just follow those first two factors and remember some periods of time will be more productive than others. So if you’re in a rut, just know that it’s a phase that you will grow out of, each time becoming stronger. On the flip side, when you are in your productive mode you’ll be surprised at what you’re capable of!
DAVID: The number one thing that has helped me get to this point is my faith in God and my family. My parents have been a constant source of support and my sisters don’t hesitate to tell me if something isn’t sounding good. Shout out to Debbie Metzger, being my second mom in Nashville. She took me in and let me crash on the couch while connecting me with great people. Second factor is practice, and the best way to do that is to jam with friends and people who are better than you. I grew up with my buddies playing classic rock and going to late night blues jams with my dad. The long winters of Alaska helped too- haha! It’s easy to stay inside all day with a guitar. Thirdly, I’d say it was moving to Nashville. That opened tons of doors simply because it’s Music City. It’s the place to be, for all aspects of the music business.
TMG: And what advice can you share, based on your own experiences, as to how aspiring side-musicians can someday land a major gig?
BRIAN: Want everything, expect nothing. That headspace will set you apart from most musicians out there. Even a great gig with a major doesn’t mean you’ve made, it’s just the beginning of the road to the next level of your career. Expect many ups and downs so that you’re mentally prepared to move on- regardless.
DAVID: Move to where the music is happening. Be the best you can be at what you do, and have a presence online so people can hear and get to know you a little bit. Make friends and create genuine relationships with people, because we’re all in this together. You never know what the connection will be that will land you a gig, but be ready at all times- cause’ it happens when you least expect it.