Tell me about your work is a new interview series published by the Division of Jazz Studies at UNT. We're interested in knowing more about the work life of our alumni, what role their musical education plays in the work they do, and what their musical lives are like now. Knowing this will give current students a broader sense of the career paths they could follow, and could suggest ways to prepare for them while they are still studying at UNT.
B.M. in Jazz Studies, 2006
M.M., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2013
What sort of work do you do?
I'm a freelance guitarist in Nashville, TN. My work consists of recording sessions, tours, television, musicals, and local gigs. My recent credits includes a 2016 Christmas tour I did with Contemporary Christian artist Lauren Daigle, and I also appeared in four episodes of Season 5 of the TV show Nashville.
What led to you doing this sort of work?
When I first moved to Nashville, I thought I wanted to phase out of playing and find a full time job in a related field. However, after living here a year, I was getting a steady amount of work, and it was much more fulfilling to play music than to search for a job. So I ended up staying with it.
How did you prepare for it?
Probably the most important thing I did was learn to sight read well. I know that sounds weird for a country music town, but it's a skill that's needed and not many guitar players in Nashville do it. It's brought some cool opportunities my way.
What's a typical day like?
Every day is different, and that's what I like so much about it. There are some months where I'll be traveling a lot, some months I'll be busy with sessions, some months I'll be playing at Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) or working on a TV episode.
What do you find most rewarding about it?
College, in some respects, was a frustrating experience for me, so if you had told me back then that I'd get to play with all these great musicians, I probably wouldn't have believed you. Aside from that, I love the culture and history of this town, the tight knit community of players, and I'm extremely grateful to find a small place in the scene here.
What do you find most challenging about it?
Self employed musicians have a unique set of career challenges. We don't have an employer to provide us with health insurance and 401K plans. Our taxes are complicated and qualifying for mortgages can be difficult. The good news is that with common sense and responsible money management most of these challenges can be overcome.
What role, if any, did your musical education at UNT play in preparing for this work?
UNT's high pressure, fast paced atmosphere was a good foreshadowing of what work is like here. Recording sessions can sometimes move so fast, and you don't want to be the one who slows everything down.
What might you have done differently during your time at UNT if you knew you would be doing this sort of work now?
I wish I had known more about the business side of music. Before moving to Nashville, I had never heard of the Federal Musicians' Pension, doing work on the union card, joint venture deals, or the different types of pay rates for recording sessions. These are all great financial resources/incentives for freelance musicians. On the performance side I definitely wish I had started diversifying my skill set way earlier in my college career. I wish I had started investing in guitars, utility instruments, effects, and amps earlier. I wish I had started learning about Pro Tools much earlier; not just learning the software side, but also how to come up with signature guitar parts and layer guitar tracks.
What else would you like readers to know about your work?
You can follow me on my instagram @lbmiller83 to see more about my gear and what kind of jobs I'm currently doing.
What other jobs have you had since leaving UNT?
When I first moved here, I worked as an unpaid intern at a music booking agency copying and pasting about 300 to 500 emails a day. I eventually got so fast at it, that they started paying me to do it.