Written by Adam Troy (SONIC X)
In the last chapter of My Rock n Roll Journey, I gave you a peak into a day in the life of a touring band, complete with the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of being a working musician. I did this in order to illustrate that some bands have difficulty in doing little more than playing music in clubs for money. Some very talented people get stuck in this part of the game, and forget that the most important part of being a musician is writing music. That used to be me.
Here I was, playing music with my best friends, getting paid for it, and touring around the country…fun times. However, I felt that this could be a dead end for the band (and me) if we didn’t start writing. I found myself living in the haze of fun times while making money touring the circuit. I loved every minute of touring, however, I was becoming restless because we weren’t really putting our focus on writing. I loved the band but I needed more. I wanted to write.
[NOTE: All of the names in this story have been changed, which why they are in quotes]
My girlfriend at the time, “Janelle,” worked at the local rock radio station, and was making good contacts with lots of people. As these things happen, an established, famous rock musician named “Phil,” (who played in a big rock band from Toronto) was in Orlando to play golf. Phil was going to stop by the station to see the program director (who was his friend).
Knowing that Phil was coming in, Janelle saw an opportunity to invite him to come out to see my band. We were playing some shit bar, and were very green. I didn’t think he would show up, but to my surprise, he did. We invited him to jam with us, and though he graciously declined, he stayed until we finished our set. Phil was a nice guy who chatted with us after the set, wished us well and then said his goodbyes. We were all star struck!
According to my girlfriend, he said some very nice things about me, which I found flattering and encouraging. It was a good night (to say the least). When you are coming up, lots of people will tell you different things…some good, some bad. I learned early on to keep things in perspective. I had no expectations that anything would come of this chance encounter with Phil. We just continued to play and dabble in songwriting.
A year and half later, Janelle got a phone call from Joseph Cumbo (my bass player in Sonic X). Phil had given him my number. Apparently, Phil had worked with the guys in Sonic X (Formerly known as L.A.) for years. They were looking for a singer and my name came up. Wait! What? Phil (a big-time, world-famous musician) brought my name up to a band he was working with? Needless to say, I was a bit taken aback.
Phone calls were exchanged and plans were made for me to get together with Joseph. If my memory serves me correctly, he flew to Orlando from Toronto to see me. We hit it off right away. After seeing the show, he invited me to Toronto to audition. Of course, I agreed.
I was surprised what was in store for me when I arrived in Toronto. After Joseph picked me up at the airport, we went for a few beers to kill some time before meeting up with Phil, Lawrence and Michael at “The Studio.” It turned out to be Phil’s world class PRO studio…not some rehearsal space (as I expected). I was instantly impressed!
We talked for a bit, and then Phil played us some new music from his band. I was blown away! Then they cued up some of Sonic X’s new music without vocals. I was impressed, but did my best to contain my excitement. For a moment, time stopped as I looked around at my surroundings. Gold records on the wall, a huge mixing console in front of me with speakers blaring music from (what might be) my future band.
We talked and hung out for a bit. They liked my demo, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it all, although I felt like this was where I was supposed to be. I mean, shit, this is the kind of story you read about in rock magazines. One thing led to another, and they offered me the gig. As excited as I was, I felt that there were still a few challenges to work out.
Joining Sonic X meant that I had to leave my band at the time, and I loved those guys like brothers. The next challenge would be to leave Florida and move to Toronto. Those were both big things. However, with lots of love, support and understanding from everyone around me, I was off to Toronto.
Overnight, I went from being a full-time touring musician based in Florida, to a full-time writing musician in the frozen land of Toronto. I’d say that I got what I wanted…a band that was mainly focused on writing. What I didn’t realize was how little experience I had as a writer. These guys were pros, and I was just some singer from Florida. We dug in and wrote for what seemed like a lifetime (until we had enough songs to play some shows).
Everything went great. People accepted me as the new singer, and we were off to the races. To say that the comfort of playing cover tunes in bars on beaches in Florida is way different than playing original music in Toronto is a huge understatement. But I loved it! Writing songs and playing shows to showcase original music was a huge step up for me.
Sonic X was already a well-known, successful local band. I was replacing a previous singer and songs that people knew and liked, but it was a challenge that we were all up to. I knew that surrounding myself with musicians of this caliber would only make me work harder, and it did.
Armed with our new tunes, we set out to secure a record deal under a different name. At the time, Toronto was getting attention from the American and Canadian record labels, and bands were getting signed out of there. The funny thing about it was that I was an American illegal trying to get an American record deal in Canada. It made sense at the time though.
For two years, we wrote songs and played shows. We had a showcase gig booked at this huge club that was the hottest place around. We brought in lasers and lots of additional lighting. Phil even offered up some of the lighting from their band for the gig. We had record company people coming to the show, so it was a big deal. The sold out venue was packed when we hit the stage to do what we do best…tear it up! It was a fun night, and a really good show.
The next day, we heard from our manager that we had some interest from one of the label reps. WHAT?! I couldn’t believe that this was happening. Just two years earlier, I was selling beer from the stage in Florida, now we had label interest from BMG? It wasn’t a major label at the time, but it was respectable. The next step was to lawyer up and see what their level of interest was. This was an area of this business that I knew nothing about. I remember going to this big glass building in downtown Toronto, riding up the elevator and thinking…“Holy shit! This is happening!”
After all the hard work that we put in, here we were in a big conference room…with a fruit basket, a $300-an-hour, big-shot, respected entertainment lawyer, our manager and the label.
As excited as I was about everything that I was experiencing, nothing prepared me for the business part of “The Business of Music.” Believe me, it really is a business. I got an education that day, the likes of which I won’t soon forget.
Join me next time for Chapter 5 of “My Rock n Roll Journey,” when I tell you about “The Business of Music,” the elevator ride after the meeting, and the band meeting that followed. Cheers!
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