New York-based keyboardist Andy Burton has toured with
artists like Rufus Wainwright, Curtis Stigers, and Ian Hunter. He is
currently performing with singer/songwriter John Mayer around the globe. He shares his tips about getting better gigs, and gives us an exclusive tour of the stage rig he's playing on John Mayer's current tour.
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1. Believing Is Step One
I started out as a philosophy major at Harvard, but
switched to a major in electronic music when I decided to follow my
heart. Soon I was working with tape loops and Buchla synthesizers and
having the time of my life. Believing that I could realize my musical
dreams was the first step in actualizing them. To quote that well known
John Mayer song, “There’s no such thing as the real world.” If music is
in your blood, don’t let anyone tell you a career in it is impossible.
2. Train Like an Athlete
I had a great deal of early classical training, from piano
lessons at the Manhattan School of Music as a child to all-around
musical immersion courtesy of other members of my family who are also
musicians. I credit a great deal of my abilities to my early and
continued musical training. Think like an athlete—develop a training
routine and stick to it.
3. Push Your Musical Boundaries
I became the musical director for a revue in New York
called “The Beat Goes On,” where a house band with 20 singers would do a
tribute to a particular era. We recreated things like music from the
British Invasion and Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” approach. Having
that gig not only introduced me to countless musicians on the New York
scene (who later recommended me for some of my biggest gigs), it also
taught me new sounds and styles that are now part of my sonic palette.
Taking gigs that are outside of your normal box can be a game-changer,
musically and networking-wise.
4. Take the Gigs that Excite You
I quit a day job to take a gig that paid the same amount
of money, but only for one month. I knew I would have nothing left after
four weeks, but the music excited me so much that I threw caution to
the wind. By doing so, more gigs came rolling in. Bet on yourself and
ultimately you will win.
5. Always Be Improving
Always increase your music collection and your
understanding of music history. It’s never too late to get better on
your instrument. When in doubt, go back to Bach and James Booker!