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Dan keller (Asheville N.C.)

Solo performers Interview

 

Artist Name: Dan Keller

Age: 29

Date: 4/8/2013

Are you an instrumentalist only: Yes

What instrument do you play: Jazz guitar

Where do you reside: Asheville, NC

 

1. What inspired you to start singing and Playing?

When I first started playing, I didn’t even know I liked music. I had a perpetual soundtrack going in my head of random melodies I’d overhear from NPR, movies, television, etc. My brother was taking guitar lessons and said his teacher was really cool, not at all like school music teachers (being an 11 year old male in the 90s, it was necessary to reject all things school-related). So, I started taking lessons.

2. How long have you been performing publicly?

At 18 I had my first restaurant gig. Before that, just talent shows and things of that nature.

3. How long did you play before you stated gigging?

7 years. It wasn’t an option until then.

4. How long have you been playing guitar?

Through teachers, method books, gigs, but of course, the real work happens in the practice room.

5. Have you taken lessons if so do you take lessons now?

Yes and no. I would still take lessons if I could, but as a full-time musician, all money goes to either living or business expenses

6. Where was your first gig?

Brevard, NC

7. How did you get it?

I used to sit in a music store and play there, driving the owner crazy I’m sure. But one of the staff started playing with me (another guitar player) and booked me on a gig he had with a bass player.

8. How scared were you?

Very.

9. How do you get gigs?

Word of mouth (one gig leads to another), website, cold-calling, cold-emailing, and stopping in at venues and introducing myself, giving them my card with a link to my website on it.

10. Do you use an agent, if so how did you get that rolling?

The only time I have is when I call a club and they say “so and so” agent books for us. I then call the agent and proceed from there.

11. What do you use for equipment?

Tube amp when there is an electrical outlet and an archtop guitar.

12. Do you use a monitor?

Only if one is provided

13. How long was you longest gig?

I don’t think I’ve ever played longer than 5 hours at one gig.

14. How long was your shortest gig?

A small town high school paid me to play the guitar part for “Frankenstein.” One song and I was done. A word of advise on pricing: For those gigs when you are needed for a short amount of time (say 20 minutes), keep in mind that with load in time, travel time, rehearsals, it may very well not be 20 minutes. You may not be able to take other gigs that night/ day/ afternoon/ whatever. If they try to get you cheap, don’t be hesitant to bring this up and say, “I realize it’s a short set, however, I have to set aside the entire night, which eliminates the opportunity for me to play anywhere else.” I am always hesitant to charge by the hour for this reason.

15. How do you choose what songs to learn?

Based on what’s been requested, what I think people will enjoy/ respond to, what I think I could do well with. Certain songs speak to me emotionally and sometimes I’ll be driving or performing a menial task and an idea will come to mind. I like to rework traditional tunes people know, (hopefully) presenting a nice combination of fresh, out, and familiar.

16. How do you learn new songs, by ear, YouTube, books?

Yes

17. Who are a few of your favorite artist?

John Coltrane, Jim Hall, Joe Pass, Pat Metheny, Bill Evans.

18. How often do you play out?

As much as possible. On average probably 3 gigs a week. I also play on the street, teach, and occasionally get a recording gig to supplement my income

19. Do you have any CD’s out?

Recorded, yes. Out, no. Honestly, I hate what the recording industry and the subsequent internet age has done to music. If I could, I’d never record for distribution, but rather be strictly live, the way music is supposed to be experienced.

20. Do you have any aspirations to take you music further than your current success?

Yes

21. How far will you travel?

As far as needed. However, it must be financially justifiable.

22. How far have you traveled to do a gig?

From NC to NY.

23. Can you recall you best show?

I’ve had good and bad nights, but can’t say there’s been a best. Sometimes you’re “in the zone,” the crowd’s into it, and everyone in the band is working together well, communicating, everyone is feeding off of everyone else. Solo-wise, same difference, just relying on feeding off the audience moreso than band members.

24. How about your worst show?

I was 19 and just having a bad night. A waiter actually asked me if I had just started. Ouch!

25. Do you have any advice for a person just getting in to gigging that you would like to share?

Don’t lose sight of your love for music. You must treat it as business in order to be successful, but music is much more than that. Don’t get caught up in the unfairness of the industry and don’t let it depress you. Be patient. I have received calls for gigs from fundraisers I did 5 years before. You never know who’s listening.

 

But most of us have to make money, and those who don’t shouldn’t drive down the market for the rest of us. Set your standards price-wise. Don’t think you need to play for free at clubs. Chances are, you’ll drive down the market, alienating other musicians and hurting yourself. Instead, look for charity events, churches, church concerts, street performing (which I still do). Take any gig that is offered to you as long as it meets this guideline. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations. You will mess up. That’s the best way to learn. Listen to experienced players, be honest with yourself about your abilities and practice what you need to work on. Don’t be too proud to take lessons. Don’t be too proud to play music you may perceive as beneath your abilities. If it truly is, then improve it. Don’t be too proud. If you’re doing it right, you will always be learning. Record as often as possible and listen and analyze intently.

27. Anything else that you would like to share?

Another solo jazz/classical guitarist once told me: ”I feel as though I’ve been criticized my entire guitar playing life.” He was 70 and a fine player. Guitarists esp. seem to receive a lot of criticism. I think it is due to the challenges we face as our instrument’s notes aren’t arranged logically like a horn or piano. Also, being a visual instrument, people look at it and say “oh I could do that.” Well, sure you could, that’s not the point!

Going back to the point, I have found that no matter what I do, there will always be someone there to say “you’re/ your playing is not challenging me enough/too in the box,” or “it’s too hard to follow;” “Your technique is overly-simplistic,” or ”you’re too busy; ”you’re too sloppy,” or “you’re too squeaky-clean.” That is why I strive to, and why I encourage my students to strive to, find what it is about music that speaks to the heart and follow that regardless of what people’s opinions may be. I love John Coltrane’s music. As I have attempted to tap into that, I have received much criticism for being too “out,” yet the better I get, the more the average Joe responds. As a piano player friend once told me: “It don’t matter what it is. If it’s good, people will like it.” If the timing is good, the notes are well conceived, and most importantly, if you’re expressing and conveying genuine emotion, then it will be good.

 

Thanks for your time.

 

Contact information/Press Kit

Dan Keller

(828) 775-2666

www.kellerjazz.vpweb.com

dkellerjazz@yahoo.com