Primary Blog/Gigging Musician Podcast/Episode 112 - From Struggling Rockstar to Financially Successful Musician With John Gilliat

Episode 112 - From Struggling Rockstar to Financially Successful Musician With John Gilliat

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

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Episode Recap

In this episode, Jared interviews John Gilliat who is a successful flamenco guitarist. John shares his story of how he succeeded in doing what he loves and shared pieces of advice to musicians who want to successfully make money as a musician.

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"You got to sound like a pro. That’s so important. This year, I finally got it together where I’ve got a sound and everything that is just working for me and everyone that’s listening to it."

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Transcript

What's up gigging pros. It's Jared here. Welcome back to another episode of The Gigging Musician Podcast. I'm here with a very special guest, John Gilliat. And he hails all the way from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with his guitar and just just read his bio real quick, and then we'll welcome John.

So John has dedicated himself to a fiery worldbeat fusion of Roomba flamenco and Latin jazz. This West Coast Music Award nominee has toured throughout North America and Japan. That's cool. We'll chat about that later.

Sure.

Performance highlights include representing Canada at Japan's 2005 Expo, performing at Canada's 2010 Winter Olympics, and performing for Canada's former Prime Minister John Catia. John's recordings have been used for radio, documentaries, TV film in North America, Japan, Ireland and the UK.

And there's a bunch more to your bio, but I'm sure we'll cover some of that throughout our questions. So John, welcome to our Gigging Musician Podcast. How's it going?

Yeah, yeah, it's going really well. Thanks for having me, Jared. It's awesome to be here. I'm a listener to your podcast. I really like all this stuff and what you're doing for other working musicians. I think it's all just awesome.

Oh, thank you so much. Yeah. And I've been following you for a while too. And you've been accomplishing quite a bit, including hitting 100k in a year from your guitar performances. So congratulations on that.

Yeah. Thanks. Yeah, appreciate that. It's been a super busy year coming back from COVID with live music. So it's, it's very cool.

Yeah, that's awesome. So before we get to all those highlights in your bio, which are very impressive, by the way, I'd love to just learn a bit about how you got started as a musician. So take me back as as far back as you can remember, when was the first time that you picked up a musical instrument?

Sure. Well, actually the first time, believe it or not, I started with a violin back in kindergarten. I remember my Yeah, I remember my getting kindergarten teacher had a violin and got us playing it in class.

I kind of vaguely remember it, but it always sat with me. And I've always wanted to go back to the violin at some point, because I've, I played in a gypsy jazz group for a very long time and still play a lot of that material. And I've worked with some incredible violin players.

So I've one day It's on my bucket list is to get back to it because I'm a huge fan of guys like Stéphane Grappelli. And I really loved playing that kind of stuff.

Anyways, to so yeah, I guess I don't know how old I was when I was in kindergarten. But I didn't get serious about guitar until I was like nine or 10. And, you know, I always wanted to be a rock and roll guitar player. When I was in high school, I created a top 40 band.

When I got out of high school, I found a booking agent that booked us around Western Canada. At that time, I think I was making about two or 300 bucks a week and living at home.

I guess after about a four week gig in Whitehorse. It was supposed to be a six week gig at Hotel Whitehorse that's right beside it, this top 40 thing wasn't quite for me because it just didn't feel like it was going where not that I got anything against Whitehorse, it's a beautiful place, but to be stuck playing the same room for six weeks up there, there wasn't a lot to do.

So I joined a tribute band and I begin touring Canada and the US and hotels, clubs and casinos. And you know, that probably doubled what I was making each week, which still wasn't enough.

So I got to the point where and you know, the that touring was like one gig one city, you know, a six hour drive the next day or even longer sometimes to the next city and playing a gig and again, another drive in a van to the next city. That's not wasn't a lot of fun.

Sure.

So I quit all of that. Went back home, studied jazz and commercial music at university here called Capilano University, Capilano College at that time, because I wanted to learn how to read and be a session guy, you know that was and be able to do more than just playing rock and roll.

I kind of kicked myself for when I was in school, I dropped out of the guitar program because I didn't want to read stuff like Mary Had a Little Lamb and they didn't really have a place for a guitar player and the jazz band so yeah, so it was one of those stories where I dropped out of class my guitar teacher said yeah, you'll never be anything as a musician if you dropped.

Oh, wow.

Oh, yeah, it was it was an awful experience. What wasn't really awful. I wanted to be a rock and roll guy. I didn't care what he had to say. Was was totally fine with me.

And I actually played in one of his bands down the down the road. You know, I sat in red with a band who was like Uh, wasn't a high school band, but I had an a community band or something like that just for fun. So that was that was kind of, yeah. Anyway, so yeah, I went to Cap-College.

You know, I graduated then I performed again in local bands did a little bit of session worked at a tiny bit of theater work.

But again, I wasn't making any money playing music, so I kind of stopped playing altogether for almost seven years. Right ran my dad's automotive business. So I learned a lot about business, which is probably a good thing, but I wasn't much for fixing cars.

Sure. Wow. Do you mind me asking what was what was your band attribute of, you know, backup a couple bands? You were an attribute?

Yeah, that tribute band was a tribute to David Bowie. Oh, cool. Which we dis you know, that band fell apart when I left it. And it wasn't because I left it the singer was having I think his mom passed away or something.

And we were playing in Dallas or whatever, we had to drive all the way home it was, it was not a good time. But um, we actually resurrected that band.

Just not that long ago. And I spent another four or five years playing in it, but got to the point where I just, again, quit because, you know, for the guys in the band, it was kind of fun.

And I hated, you know, having to deal with visas and you know, flying down to the states in like four days to make 400 bucks at a, you know, at a festival and then fly back. And I was missing out on too much good work doing that kind of thing. So I left that.

Yeah, for sure. And it sounds like you were spending more on travel than you were making from the festivals.

Yeah, my, my wife is a she's always been a strong supporter. But she definitely lets me know when, you know, she's, she hated the fact that I was playing with this band, you know, for the kind of money I was making, the traveling I was doing and all that stuff, you know, so she would definitely let me know. She was not happy with. Yeah, for sure. So it was good. So eventually, I did leave and I'm glad I did.

Yeah, it just becomes so painful that something has to change.

Yeah, you know, I just I love the whole rock and roll thing, big stage. You know, big festivals and playing, you know, you hit one chord and everyone screams and you know, that's, that's a lot of fun, you know, compared to you know what I do now, which is which is wonderful.

And it is a lot of fun. But a lot of the events, as you probably know you're in a corner someplace. And and you just do the gig and you leave. And that's, that's the deal. Your background music for a lot of stuff.

Yeah. So this kind of brings us to where you're at now. You just had finished telling us about dropping out of college for music, and then working at your dad's automotive shop. And then what happened next, and bring us to where you are today.

Right. So I didn't really drop out of college. It was a two year music program. So I did graduate from that and then did my dad's automotive thing when I found I still wasn't making all that money.

So there's a few things that happened that kind of changed everything. Number one, I began playing flamenco as a soloist because I was always relying on a frontman singer, in order to have a band to play in so I was always relying on other musicians.

So the flamenco thing was great. So I was working in my dad's company. I also started teaching full time I had like 64 students that I taught.

So whilst we actually I left my dad's company and then I did that, then I was doing the learning to play flamenco as well so I could do like solo flamenco solo classical.

But the problem with that and being a not being, you know, a virtuoso, like a pocket Lucia or Tommy Manuel is and I'm such a perfectionist that it just wasn't working out that well for me. So anyways, a big thing that happened to me, which got me into the whole rumba flamenco thing was I went and saw a guy named Hotmart lever.

And he's, I don't know if you know of him. He was really popular quite a few years back. But he played flamenco guitar played with the percussion player played with the bass player.

I saw him open for Natalie Cole here in Vancouver. And I was just floored with this guy because what he was doing was just playing simple but really nice melodies. Then he'd improvise it on it, and he'd do that you know, on all night long and I just loved it and everybody that was there loved it.

And I thought this is perfect. This is what I could do simple melodies on a nylon string guitar, I love to improvise, so I could do all this stuff. I love to do improvising. And I created my own CD. I released it put a band together. And that became super successful.

I played a bunch of festivals did some showcases did a few private gigs with, with an agent, you know from back in the pop music days. But I still wasn't making a lot of money, I still relied heavily on teaching income.

So I guess the second breakthrough for me was auditioning a guitarist in Vancouver named Ron Thompson, for my own rumba flamenco band. Well, he wasn't interested in playing in my band, he actually hired me to play in his gypsy jazz band.

And now I began began playing along with doing my own festivals and the gigs that I was getting. We were now doing a ton of festivals. And because he was a huge corporate band playing with some, some really, really great players like John Reisman, who is a mandolin player that played with Tony Rayns.

And just, you know, I got connected with sort of like the best of Vancouver, in the terms in terms of working guys making a lot of money doing corporate private events, and weddings.

So it got me into all of that. And at that time, I also, my own project was taking off more CDs, started touring Japan quite a bit. Everywhere in Canada, a lot of places in the US, were selling 1000s of CDs at that time.

So I was making a lot of money with CDs, and some stuff with TV and all that. So all that was going great. But the only problem I still had was I was still relying on a band to carry me as an artist, because I couldn't do it as a soloist.

I think as being too much of a perfectionist and not thinking I was good enough. Even though I was doing all this cool stuff. In my mind, I still wasn't like a Paquito See, or Itami an annual and just figured nobody would care.

So I had a solution for that because everyone's or people were starting to do this looping thing. And I got super good at it to the point where, you know, Roland sent me back east to Montreal for the Montreal Jazz Festival and won their national championship, I got more notoriety through that and got a bunch of gigs and did workshops.

But there was a problem with that as well. And this is, this is probably good for all your artists that are into looping that get on big stages and stuff, I would have a problem where if I'm on a big festival stage, where the substance stuff would start bleeding into the loops that I was creating when I was using a microphone live on stage.

And even with an acoustic guitar, the acoustic guitar is still pretty microphonic, as you probably know, even when you put a pickup in it. And there still are problems with feedback and stuff.

So yeah, that was a huge problem, when you get feedback going through the loops that you're creating. And everything's pretty intricate, and it can be a real mess. So yeah, so all this stuff was great.

I was playing solo guitar, I was doing all this stuff. But I created a solution for the looping thing. And this is where using tracks came in, in sort of a big professional level. Now a lot of people say, well, using tracks is just karaoke.

And I'm totally in that mindset and didn't want to go there. And that's why I did looping for as long as I did.

But when you've got to, you know, fly to Japan and take a bunch of gear, or you're playing an expo stage or a big event where you've got like just minutes to get on stage plugin, do your thing, get off the stage, I thought the only way I was going to do this is I had a little mp3 player, I put all my loops into this mp3 player and arrange the loops.

So I would be playing along with it. And it would give the appearance the appearance that I was playing with my loop station. But now I wasn't jumping all over pedals. And I could actually engage with the audience.

Again, that was another problem with looping, you got your head down all the time trying to keep it all together. If you ever want to see sort of just how elaborate my loop sky you can check them out on Facebook.

But yeah, it doesn't allow you don't have a lot of fun. You're working your butt off to do this stuff. And you don't get to engage with the audience.

So using an mp3 player was great. I cool. So now I'm doing all this stuff. I'm able to play as a soloist, which turned out really good. And then of course COVID hit and everything crashed.

For sure, well, we'll definitely get there. But that brings up an interesting point because yes, I'm sure there are a lot of looping musicians on my my podcast listeners. I am not one of them yet.

I would eventually love to get into looping but I just worked with an artist Tracy Silverman who does electric violin with looping and, and all these other cool effects. about playing with tracks.

I do play with tracks, but that does bring up the idea of authenticity in music, which when I was in music school, like the the music history professors always got into these debates about authenticity.

And obviously, it's something very important. But did it ever feel like what you were doing was inauthentic? And then how did you get over that? Because obviously, the result that you got was so much better once you switched from live looping to play with tracks.

Right? Well, the artists side of me makes it because I'm still I still don't feel like I'm a Tommy Emmanuel even though I can I know I, I'm a really good player. But not enough as a soloist that, you know, I could hold an audience that way.

So, when I played the tracks, the tracks were very subtle. Again, you know, it had the appearance that I was looping. So it was just a rhythm guitar and had to click in my ear.

So the gym, most audiences wouldn't even know that I was looping or there was a second guitar or I had a track at all. But then I found people that wanted to hire the band, or hire me, but not the band, but still wanted it upbeat danceable, whatever.

So I started doing tracks where my tracks had a guitar on one side, and then had the bass and the percussion on the other side. And I could pan to one or the other, depending on how much I felt that this audience would appreciate and fit with the performance.

Now I'm getting paid really good money, which I used to charge out as a duo or a trio, but I'm doing it as a soloist, because I'm able to play these events now that want that upbeat thing. And they know I'm good at it now.

Because you know, it gets around that people you know, want you for that. So the non business musician in Migos, I'm having a whole lot of fun, I'm engaging with the audience, I'm playing guitar, I'm using a track but at the end of the day, I made it bucketload of money, and I had a lot of fun doing it.

I still sometimes in my head, you know, when you're playing and you've got all this calm, you've got this conversation going on in your head. Oh, well, this really sucks. You know, this, you know?

Like you're playing all these notes playing melodies and improvising. You know, this conversations going on where you're gonna Oh, yes, feels pretty quick karaoke, blah, blah, blah. But I got to the point where it's really not that karaoke, the tracks that I use is just like percussion and shaker and bass.

I don't use I make my own tracks. They're not crashing with a bunch of symbols and stuff. So they're very tailored to work an event without being karaoke, a lot of people don't even know that anything's going on.

But it makes me feel comfortable doing it. And I've gotten to, because I've been playing this way for so long. When I do solo events, you get to the point where you're playing baselines, chord solos, and all that stuff, whistle with the tracks.

So if you fade the track out, you're kind of doing the Tommy manual thing anyways. But you can add that little kick to it or whatever, if you feel the audience would need it.

Okay, that makes sense. And the cover? No, it's great. It's I love learning about like, what's going on in your mind as you're playing these things. Because I think all of us have those thoughts in our mind.

Like, I'm not good enough, or Whoo, I wish that this sounded a little different. But I feel like those conversations that happen in our minds, even though they are like, I wouldn't call them self sabotaging, but their imposter syndrome type thoughts?

Yeah.

They're the sign that like, you're self aware enough to know how to make something better. So you're always striving to be better.

And I don't know from your experience, but from mine, like those thoughts never truly go away. I've just I've just gotten comfortable living with them, and using them as my own internal feedback of how to get better.

Yeah, I even go one step further. Now I have my way of dealing with it when it comes into my head. Because we're all junkies for that feeling of euphoria when everything falls into place. And and, you know, there's nothing on earth that you'd rather be doing.

And every note you play is just amazing. So you know, you want to get to that and I find that if I get my head too much. I close my eyes. I and I sing what I'm playing in my head because I'm not I'm not a singer.

So I'm not doing the Penson thing. But I feel that if you bring yourself centered back into the show, shutting out what's around you, even when I'm playing in a restaurant, or you know doing a corporate thing at a restaurant or whatever.

Nobody really cares You know, I literally shut my eyes. envision that I'm in front of one of those big stages that I used to play all the time, you know, the festival stage and the audience is listening.

And if I'm singing the melodies and the improvisations, as I'm playing, you tend to refocus back into the music and that stuff kind of goes away until you open your eyes and you're back. In reality that's pretty Zen. But that's, it's something.

That's a cool technique. I'll have to try that next time. I'm playing.

Yeah, as long as you're not reading.

Yeah. I mean, I've played my tune so many times that I don't need to read them.

Yeah, same here with a lot of stuff.

For sure. Awesome. So I, in your bio, it said that you played for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Tell me more about that. How did you get that gig?

Yeah, well, I get a lot of work through agencies, dealt with a lot of agents all my life. And I, I think that one was through an agent. And man, there was a lot of money in that. I remember I played 15 minutes and made 1000 bucks.

Wow. This is a cool gig. But I was on call for most of the day. So it was an Olympic. I can't remember how it worked exactly. But I was basically on call. We were doing a guitar duo. So it was $2,000 for the duo.

We basically showed up and did I think we did five minutes, almost like a stinger between two speakers. And then we're on call. So I think we went back and watched American Idol or something for a few hours, back to his place.

Got the call came back down, did another 10 minutes. And that was the gig. Wow. That's so cool. Yeah. And then some of it you know, I had to drive up to Whistler it would be a an event that was happening around like pre Olympic event, like, there lots of parties and stuff companies come up and whatever.

So we'd go up to Whistler for those those things. It was locally here in Whistler as well. So I didn't have to go very far in order to participate in that. But it was a great time. Same with, you know, when we'd have the indie we'd get hired to play, you know, for the indie or what all these different events that would would come to Vancouver?

Yeah, for sure. And it's been, you said it was a lot through booking agents.

Most of that was through booking agents when I was doing my own, like not post COVID, where I've been following a lot more of what you've got to offer, which is which is extremely valuable.

But before that, when I have my own group, I used to pound the pavement quite a bit. And you know, get restaurants do showcases for festivals and all that kind of stuff.

But then I stopped I got really comfortable because everything was coming to me from all these different bands. From the agents, destinations, planets, planners, event planners, and all that kind of stuff.

So I got really lazy, and then as things slowed down CD sales were dropping off, then yeah, the income and everything. And then COVID You know, it all started to come apart.

Yeah, that's so interesting. I mean, what you say about getting comfortable when things are going well? Yeah, you feel like you can just leave it alone. But what happens when it dries up? And then COVID just made everything worse? What happened after that, like, how did you get out of COVID?

Well, I still worked a little bit in COVID, we were doing virtual performances, you know, for corporate, you know, so, you know, the nurses union would hire you to do an event.

If you got time for a quick story that that's kind of fun to hear. Let's do it. So here's a typical virtual corporate event, or one that I did around Christmas time during COVID. I would. This was for a huge company. It was done on Zoom, they had lots of these individual zoom rooms.

So they hired a whole bunch of actors, a whole bunch of music acts, each Zoom Room would have either two musical acts that would play off of each other, or they might have like a game with actors or whatever it is all kinds of different stuff.

So all the performers would meet in one Zoom Room, maybe an hour before to do sound checks with all our different tech guys. We were monitoring everything I think on WhatsApp, and then all the performances were on Zoom.

So as you're performing, you're watching a feed on WhatsApp to find out you know how much time you've got when you go on blah, blah, blah, all that kind of stuff. So a lot of tech involved.

We were using green screens and stuff at home, but my setup was basically in my studio I'm in front of a green screen with a Christmas thing behind us or no, it was whatever backdrop they wanted for us.

And I would play 15 minutes, then I would go downstairs, watch a Christmas show with my wife for 15 minutes, go back up to my room, play 15 minutes back downstairs, watch TV hanging out with my wife and and that was in we got, again paid really, really well for our time sitting around at home watching TV.

If it's like kind of like the kind of like the $1,000 Olympic gig, you know, where you play for 15 minutes and the rest of the time you're sitting around watching TV.

That's wild. Like, you know, most performances, if you're not on stage, you're back in the green room or somewhere behind the stage. But you're behind the stage was actually maybe on the couch with your wife watching Hallmark Channel or something.

That's exactly it.

That's amazing.

Yeah.

Cool. So you did that? And then how, like, as things started to reopen, I know Canada definitely trailed behind the US as far as when things reopened. But how did how did you position yourself to be ready when events came back?

Right. So January, things were so closed for us, January, I guess the beginning of this year, things didn't open up for us till March, maybe mid March.

At that time, January I was connecting with you I purchased your program for Kevin or what it was called it was just it was like a coaching program downloaded your book and then you had a coaching pro program.

You had the book BookLive software. So I it was a deal where you got like a it was great deal a year subscription or whatever to the software. So I use that in order to gear up for it.

And what I learned from you was at back then I was selling my original music and selling me as I was just selling I was selling my music because I had done that for years selling CDs mp3 and all that stuff.

But it all tankless was streaming you know where I get point 0001 cent every time someone streams my song. It's just ridiculous. So I realized that you know, you're you don't want to sell. It's not for everybody.

But for me, I didn't want to sell my original music, what I needed to sell is myself for live performances. You know, I wanted to sell myself as someone that can make their event a huge success, and that they're going to tell their friends because their friends are going to rave about that performance.

You know, whether it's a wedding, I mean, it's all the stuff that I did before but I was never selling it. I was always the guy trying to be the original artist and sell my my music. But there's no well for me now there's no money in that.

As you know, not a well known artist, but there's there's bucket loads of money for people that want to play these private events, corporate events, weddings and all that stuff. And I had been doing that all before I had tons of reviews and everything for all this stuff.

But I never marketed it I never put it on my website. So now my instead of my website being and this is through your program that I realize this and I don't know why I didn't realize years ago because I used to spend so much money and time on Marketing my music, people are going to feel good because they're going to listen to my music.

Now they're going to feel good because they're going to go to your event and they're going to listen to my music but you know, but I'm selling myself as the full package.

And so I rebuilt the website and there's a lot more work to do I've just been way too busy with performances that I can't get back to it yet with video and the stuff I need to do.

I've got left off sort of where I am with your program and the things I finish up on in terms of you know, video and branding and everything but I did enough and contact got in contact with everybody agents, destination planners and everybody else that I've worked with in the past to let them know you know that I really want to do this not so much being original artists want to play more live events.

And it just took off so March things opened up and but March April May Yeah, it was just getting really busy then this summer has been nuts.

Wow. That's awesome. What what kind of events have you booked for the summer?

It's been weddings. Corporate. I like to do retirement homes during the day because I can still do a corporate event in that In the evening, and I get a lot out of doing that, especially because I'm older. And I'm hoping that people are going to do that for me.

And I know, a lot of the performance that they get in these places are not really good, because I hear it from an I don't, I shouldn't say that. But I do hear from the people that they just really, really enjoy it.

So I like doing that even though it doesn't pay all that much. But it's just a nice thing to do. And it doesn't interfere with Yeah, weddings, corporate private parties birthday, I'm doing today's my 70s instrumental birthday party that I'm doing. Once we get through this, and rehearsing a couple more tunes, and off I go,

Yeah, that's awesome. I mean, I'm really proud of you. Like, you've proven that by taking this marketing process that for many musicians is unfamiliar.

And just by applying it, and you didn't even apply it to the finish line. And that's okay, I'm not judging you for that there yet. But you just even went maybe halfway there, and that you've already gotten these results, which is incredible. So congratulations.

Not thanks. I know, the videos and everything can be way better. But it was just, you know, throw it up there. Even though you might not think it's great, it's not perfect. People look at it and they go, that's perfect for for my event or what I'm doing.

The other thing is, you know, BookLive is is a great platform. And that made a big difference to me as well. Because I can manage my calendar, I can do contracts and invoicing where it used to be a real mess before when I was doing it and papers and files everywhere.

Having a client database and a database for my network of musicians and performers. That makes a big difference.

Awesome. Yeah, I found that organization is like oftentimes one of the hardest battles for musicians.

Yeah. Now a little side note, you can cut this out if you need to, I wasn't able to use the BookLine program, because we talked about, you know, the taxes in Canada, we have services tax that I have to, I have to charge and I have to account for that, as well as musicians, they have to some have to charge that some don't depending on how much income they make.

So I went with a program that was just a local guy here in Vancouver, a musician that I knew had something that he had used. So I'm just been using that. But still, you know, a program like BookLive is just so so important, especially when you get busy.

Maybe not for everyone right away. But even having that that what do you call it? link on your website? Like I use WordPress, so I can put in a little thing where client can come along.

If he's interested, he can book me and, and all of that which BookLive provides. And it makes it so easy.

Yeah, that's the thing is like we we would rather spend more time playing than doing the business stuff.

Oh, yeah.

Which reminds me, do you feel like that seven year stint running your dad's business helped when you decided to treat your music career as a business?

Yeah, it helps a lot. Because I know musicians that have been audited due to taxes and all kinds of problems that they've ran into. And because I've I was even audited years ago as a musician, so I don't ever want that headache again, even though they weren't able to charge me with much or fine anything.

But I know it's it's killed a lot of musicians because they're not on top of that. And I also do all the books and run my wife's company, you know, so I'm really on top of taxation and payroll and all that stuff.

And even as a proprietor you have to be it's so so important, whether you hire a bookkeeper or not, but you got to keep good records.

Yeah, for sure.

And you honest.

Absolutely. I did want to circle back to what you mentioned earlier about, it was actually early in this interview, you mentioned that when you started playing private events, you have to become comfortable with being the background music.

I want to understand a little bit more about that, like, you know, some people when they listen to that they're like, that's totally not for me. I want to be on stage. How do you balance that idea where like, you want to be the star of the show, but like at these private events, you're not their event is the star of the show?

Yeah. Yeah, it's kind of a different hat. I, I'm a people pleaser. So I definitely want to do everything I can to make things perfect for somebody. And when it's the corporate world, it's being extremely professional.

Showing up, you had someone just on a podcast not that long ago, you know, you got to be there really early, show up on time, help them out wherever you can, you can make additional money for it, if you're helping them out and you put in the contract, hey, I can do the supply this, I can supply this, and so on.

But you do have to take that step back and be the guy that they've hired you, they've just hired you to be ambient. In the background, sometimes they might want you in the foreground, like for a wedding, they might want you right up there, you know, by the table where they're signing the register, and you're, you're a performance for that.

So you know, you do get to be a performer, but for me, it's not a rock and roll performance. Even though I do play Rock and roll's tunes as an instrumentalist, sometimes it is. It's more of, you know, the classical, not classical.

But yeah, it's the instrumental for me and instrumental performance. And I don't get to jump around like an idiot like a rock star. However, I still get to do those performances, you know, I just left that tribute band.

And that was that was that was a blast. So there's, there's that too, you know, where you get hired, and you get to play one big fat cord in front of a couple Marshall amplifiers. And, and that, and that does me for a few weeks, I go back into, you know, do my stuff where it makes the money.

But it's nothing to say that I can't jump into that role and play in a rock band again, too. So I can do that when I need my fix. Even if it's doing it with friends for free. Right, yeah, you know, so there's I, you know, you play music, for your own satisfaction to gratify yourself.

And then you also play it for a living, which I do enjoy, because I see the gratification from everybody afterwards. A good example of that is when I was touring Japan and playing instrumental rumba, flamenco, on stages in Japan, the audience was super polite, you know, they would clap after the performance, it would be generally an older audience, not like the younger teenage Japan group, it was more of a reserved because this is more of a classical rumba flamenco kind of thing for the unaltered group.

And I would throw the whole performance, I would be thinking, oh, man, we really suck. You know, this mind thing, because because Japanese people, the older Japanese people are super, super polite.

They're, they're great. I love going over there and the people. And you don't know until after the, you know, you do the meet and greet out in the reception area, where I could speak a little Japanese, but I had a translator there.

And they would be telling me you know how much this person loved the performance. And that's all I got all night long at the meet and greet. So, again, doing a corporate thing, and it works the same for corporate, you do corporate stuff, figure no one's paying attention.

Nobody is listening. And as you're tearing down at the end of the event, you're getting a great review from the person who's hired you. You're getting people that are coming up to you going. I know, you probably don't think anyone was listening, but you were fantastic. We just loved it.

You know, can I get a card? We're doing my daughter's doing having a wedding, you know, all that kind of stuff. So you don't realize after just the effect that you have on people?

Yeah, that's so cool. Because I know a lot of people were like, you don't get applause at these private events?

Yeah, you get nothing.

But you do. It's just a different form.

Yeah, yeah. And, you know, even going back to, because I used to busk when I was practicing my solo flamenco stuff, and I'd throw my case out there go to where no one was listening.

So I could get over my nerves. And just play, you know, out in the market or something like that. And again, you know, that thing comes in your head, you know, I suck, no one's throwing any money in the thing.

But I remember someone throwing a note into my guitar case once and after looking at that note, and I can't remember what it said. But it was just how much you know, she was having a terrible day and just how much the music meant to her.

Having me play there, and I never would have thought that I had any effect on anybody there.

Wow.

But you do.

Yeah, that's beautiful. I just a couple more questions here before we wrap things up. So obviously, you are very embedded in the private events world. You're happy doing that? What do you think your life would be like? Had you never figured that out? Like what would your music career look like?

Yeah, probably be divorcing me because I'd be doing all these club gigs for no money thinking. And that's what it was before I even discovered, you know, all these little things that I needed to do was yeah, I, you know, I'd be working, still working at my dad's company.

You know, playing gigs at night. Or if I was playing gigs at night, you know, I'd have to be playing all the time again, where my wife would wouldn't be happy with that, you know, I bought a home, raise kids and did all this stuff.

And I couldn't have done it unless I jumped into that corporate world and turned off the trying to make it as a rock star. Because that's all I wanted back then I wanted to be, you know, Joe Satriani.

Yeah, it's, it's incredibly difficult. It's like, trying to win American Idol, like what you were watching during the, the Olympics.

Yeah. And if I had to do it all over again, instead of going to, you know, the jazz college I went to, I probably would have went to Berkeley or MIT or something like that, because that's where all the connections would have been for me.

I and guys that I know that did that were quite successful in New York and some other places that we're from here. So you learn a lot of things along the way. And not to say that all these people that go to Berkeley and MIT make it.

But back in the 80s, when I was learning all this stuff, that would have been the primetime to be there. Because, again, building your network is extremely important. So here's something I did, I brought a lot of really great performers from LA, San Francisco and stuff to Vancouver to do shows with me, like another guitar player.

And they would return that favor by allowing me to perform with them in San Francisco and stuff like that. So. So those connections are great. But I would have had way more had I gone to, you know, an MIT or JT so that's something I kind of learn.

You know, there's things you kick yourself for what would have been a really good time to have done that? I don't know if it would have been the same now.

Yeah, for sure. I mean, especially to do that, as the internet started to come to maturity, like to be one of the first Youtube sensations probably was a lot easier when there weren't that many people on YouTube.

Yeah. Yeah. Like my first YouTube video that I put out years ago. You know, it's up close to like, a million views. And now you know, you're lucky to get a few 100

It's awesome. All right. So for sure. What pieces of advice would you give to our listeners hear about, you know, making a living doing what they love?

Yeah, I wrote down a few tips, because I've, you know, I listen to your podcasts all the time, and I thought I better have a couple in my, in my bag ready to go.

So yeah, if you get busy enough, definitely use BookLive, you need a platform like that. Another thing is, be sure to sell your service and not your original music, if you want to get into the private events, weddings and all that it's, it's about them and selling a service that they are looking for, and not trying to sell yourself as an artist.

You got to sound like a pro. That's so important. This year I sound they're after me. This year, I finally got it together where I've got a sound and everything that is that is just working for me and everyone that's listening to it.

It's I've been playing for what 48 years or something like that. And it finally is taken until now till I finally got it together. And it doesn't mean that you have to buy I mean, I mean, I use QSC and all kinds of great equipment because I've been able to do it.

But when I first started, I basically used a stereo with stereo speakers that I put into boxes that would look like PA speakers and I was doing corporate events. I know. You know this way, because that's all I could afford.

But to sound like a pro, as a guitarist, you need to dial in the reverb, right? You need to use a little compression and you need to know how that works. All that stuff is super important.

So if you don't know how to do that, connect with somebody. I wouldn't say connect with somebody at a store or an engineer, but go out and see a bunch of people that are doing the music that you do. And when you see the guy that's got the primo sound that you think is just going to wow your client, not you as a musician.

Then you connect with him and you find out what he's doing and yeah, now I've got I've got it together. Were man, I wish I sounded like this years ago when I first started because I know I'd be 10 times busier, just by the way I sound not by what I'm playing, but just by the way I sound.

Wow, that's good advice.

Some other tips, you got to network with clients have a database for all your clients so you can get back to them. And at Christmas time, you can say, hey, I also play Christmas music and all that kind of stuff, right?

If you play in a group, which I know you do, and you probably have different musicians that you work with, I know over the years, I have a huge circle of musicians that I call on different guitar players, different bass players for different events that I do.

And I like to call on them all. However, I only call on and call back the musicians that are working hard like me that are doing private events and stuff like that, because what happens, I get them on a gig, then they get me on their gig, and it goes back and forth.

I can't do a gig, I give it to them. They can't do a gig, they give it to me. And it just it just snowballs. I've had musicians that I've hired that, instead of giving back a gig, they wind up taking contacts, and you know, stuff like this, and I never hire him again.

And I wouldn't. I wouldn't even recommend them to anybody or another man. So your network is gold. And you've got to treat it like that. You got to be a pro. Obviously, we talked about you know, showing up early for gigs.

You got to be a pro on the gig. I don't drink. I don't smoke. If you do, don't do it on the gig. I've again, I've had a musician that what did he do? We're playing an aquarium for a corporate event.

And you went back behind one of the snack bars or something and grabbed food off of the caterers tray.

Oh, no.

Yeah, so never hired him again. I had a percussionist. There's all kinds of stories anyway, to get it. But be a pro, whether you're the side guy, or it's your gig, you got to be professional help, advise and help people, you've talked a lot about this advice and help your clients as much as you can.

But if it's advice on the onset, on onset, as you're putting things together, and you're putting together a contract, be sure to upsell all those options that you can provide because they are there's money for it.

And the client has no problem saying, Yeah, I can do that, you know, like a wireless mic for speeches or whatever. Whether I own one or not, I can tell the client? Well, I'll have to go pick one up for you.

You know, it's my time to get one and set it up and so on. So there's there's a fee. A lot of times weddings, you'd be playing in two locations, sometimes three, I know I do. So I upsell my additional time for setting up that additional PA and the cost to provide the equipment. Yeah, I guess that's about all I have to offer.

That's awesome. That that's a lot. No, that's fantastic advice. Well, thank you so much for for being here and doing this interview with me and for being a part of my program. I'm super impressed with all that you've done with it.

Like, it's just great watching you grow and hearing all your stories and the backstory. Super cool. So I'm glad I got to see that aspect of you too. Where can our listeners learn more about you like you and share your website? Social media?

Sure, you can just go to your guitar or sorry, you can go to JohnGilliat.com. I think Facebook is Facebook.com/JohnGilliat Everything's usually something to do with me.

So just Google my name, you'll find it if you're interested in sort of learning to play as a guitar player, and if you're not a singer, I know during COVID I put together and I still haven't finished it yet because I've been so busy with my performances.

But I've put together a program so it teaches a guitar player how you can be a soloist use tracks or whatever. I share my tracks I share the music I do I teach people how to play the music I do because a lot of it is just simple melodies, and then you improvise and it teaches them how to improvise.

So yeah, if anyone's interested in that it's through a site called YourGuitarSchool.com And the program that I'm sharing on you know how to you know how I make money doing this with all my tracks and stuff is sort of in a beta thing but you can always contact me if you're interested in getting some material for.

That's awesome. Well, thanks. Thanks again for being on The Gigging Musician Podcast and to all our listeners out there remember, "You are just one gig away!".

Episode 234 - Building a Music Community: Lessons from EDM and Metal Fusion

Episode 233 - Think Like a DJ: Elevate Your Music Career with High-End Gigs

Episode 232 - From Bar Gigs to High-End Events: The Renegade Musician's Guide to Success

Leadership in the Music Industry: How to Secure High-Profile Gigs and Take Charge of Your Career

Episode 230 - Unlocking the Secrets of Consistent Networking and Modern Sales for Musicians

Episode 229 - The Power of Networking and Recommendations in the Music Industry

Episode 228 - Navigating the Gig Economy: Venue Tours, Expos, and the Power of Numbers

Episode 227 - Strategic Moves: Venue Tours, Expos, and Unexpected Gigs

Episode 226 - Maximizing Gigs: New Tools for Tracking Success and Boosting Bookings

Episode 225 - Unlocking Gigs: Venue Tours and Strategic Partnerships

Episode 224 - A Day in the Life: Venue Tours, Unexpected Gigs, and Networking Wins

Episode 223 - Landing Gigs Post-Wedding Expo: A Musician's Success Story

Episode 222 - Navigating the Wedding Expo Scene: A Musician's Journey to Success

Episode 221 - Maximizing Success at Wedding Expos: A Musician's Guide

Episode 220 - Unlocking High-End Gigs: Venue Tours and Virtual Assistant Strategies

Episode 219 - Maximizing Your Music Career: The Power of a Personal Assistant

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