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Jim Lill (Portland MI /Nashville TN)

Solo performers Interview

Artist Name: Jim

20 (or 21 if I’m in a bar…)

Date 6/10/13

Are you an
instrumentalist only?

What instrument do you play? Guitar, and some dobro, pedal steel,
banjo, bass, mandolin, keys, and drums.

Where do you reside? Portland, MI this summer. Nashville most of
the rest of the time.


What inspired you to start singing and Playing?

Jimmy Buffett. My family was made
up of Parrotheads and I’ve always tried to imitate my idols, in many facets of
life. So my grandma got me a tiny guitar when I was little and I never learned
how to play it. But in middle school I got a full size acoustic at a pawn shop
and started taking lessons. As soon as I could play three chords I looked up
all of the songs I liked and I learned all of the ones that  had “G” “C” and
“D” in them! That was the start of me wanting to play and sing.

How long have you been performing publicly?

Since third grade. Not musically, I was in theatre. I was a tiny little
narcissist that ate up the spotlight every chance I could. Now I’m bigger. My
first music gigs were sitting in with my guitar teacher when I was 13 years old
and terrible. But nobody told me I sucked, so I kept playing. It worked out
well for everyone.

How long did you play before you stated gigging?

Within a year of me starting to play I was sitting in with my guitar
teacher. But other than that I didn’t have a real paying gig until my junior year
in high school, not long after I turned 17.

How long have you been playing

Since the summer after 7th grade. Ish.

How did you learn to play

Took lessons from Rush Clement for four or five years. Most importantly I
ignored half the things he taught me and I learned a ton of songs. That’s what
wrinkled my brain, discovering all of the ways different chords interacted with
each other in the context of my favorite songs.

Where was your first gig?

First gig ever was on a stage in
the middle of Kent Street in Portland, MI. A buddy and I played Margaritaville,
Sweet Home Alabama, Brown Eyed Girl, and Freebird. I didn’t know the chords to
the outro solo of Freebird, and my buddy was playing the solo, so it was just
him jamming a pentatonic scale over a drumbeat. It was terrible yet awesome at
the same time.

How did you get it?

Through my guitar teacher.

How scared were you?

Kinda. I didn’t know how much I sucked, so I wasn’t as scared as I should
have been.

How do you get gigs?

Now? Some through a booking agent,
some by just walking into local bars and asking the manager. The latter usually
ends up being the fun ones.

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

Yes, for some Friday/Saturday night stuff. The guy heard about me from
people, then saw me play when I opened up for him at a small festival. Then the
following summer he decided to give me paying gigs if I want to take them. It’s
a pretty easy give and take.

What do you use for equipment?

It’s changing constantly, mostly because some of my setup is borrowed
from others. I used to have a powered head and passive speakers, but that ended
up being less reliable than I could deal with. So I bought nice EV 15″
active speakers and I’ve been borrowing Presonus and Allen & Heath boards
from friends. Those Presonus StudioLive boards are legit.

Do you use a monitor?

Absolutely. I use earbuds from the headphone out on my board right now,
and I used to have a couple cheap monitors. Good monitoring means I can hear
myself better, which means I can tell if I sound good, which means I can relax
and perform. My voice wears out fast from stress when I can’t hear myself.

Do you have any tips you can share as far as setting up your equipment
for a gig?

to keep the cables neat if you can. Otherwise, just do the best with what
you’ve got.

How do you choose what songs to learn?

I don’t really, I just listen to the radio and sort of absorb the chords
and lyrics. I have a good memory and an understanding of the Nashville Number
System that lets me learn songs by hearing them enough. It’s a cool trick.

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

By ear. If there’s a really hard solo or lick then I might use a book or
the internet.

When you practice do you go
through a P. A. or just you and your guitar?

Just me and my guitar unless I’m testing something specific in the PA,
like a new effect or setting.

Who are a few of your favorite

Dierks Bentley is my #1 all time fave. Also Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney,
Randy Montana, Phil     Vassar, and Jason
Aldean. A weird band to throw in that mix is All Time Low. They’re a pop-punk
band, but their production is incredible. They sound HUGE.

How often do you play out?

A couple times a week over the summer, once a month during the school
year. Those are both rough estimates with a wide margin of error, sometimes
it’s spontaneous.

Do you have any CD’s out?

Why yes I do, thanks for asking. I did a project last year that was fun
and it’s on iTunes. Or just pirate it for free somewhere if you can.

Do you have any aspirations to take you music further than your current

Absolutely I do! I’m in college for
Audio Engineering right now at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. I’m not
gonna become a car salesman or anything.

How far will you travel?

Depends on the pay. If the Phoenix, AZ Summerfest is offering me $6,000
for 45 minutes, I’ll fly out in a heartbeat and buy a $200 guitar when I get
there. I don’t have a day job to report to the next day.

How far have you traveled to do
a gig?

When I was in Nashville I did a weekend where I played four hours of
music with two people I had never met before and we drove from Nashville to the
Northwest corner of Kentucky for a half hour of music. Then on our way back to
Nashville we played a full night at a tiny college bar in Lexington, comprising
the other three and a half hours of music. Then there was another gig at
Holiday World in Santa Claus, IN. That one was super fun.

Can you recall you best show?

At the Ingham County Fair I shredded a great outro solo as my last
performance with the bar band I played in for two years before I left for
college. That was a cool moment.

How about your worst show?

New Years Eve, 2010 (turning into New Years Day 2011). I was stuck at a
bar I didn’t want to be at while all of my friends were at a party that
would’ve been much more enjoyable.

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

Record yourself and bask in how much you suck. It’ll be so embarrassing,
you’ll HAVE to get better. It’s the best motivation for practice. Keep gigging,
and take comfort in the fact that none of the people you’re playing to can tell
the difference between a mixed and mastered Freddie Mercury and Larry The Cable
Guy singing karaoke, but don’t be satisfied with yourself just because everyone
else is. Run the show and own the crowd when you’re playing, but don’t get
cocky, kid.

Anything else that you would
like to share?

I’m seeking a Fresca endorsement, can anybody help me with that?


Jim can be contacted at: