By: Joshua Van Ness
My name is Joshua Van Ness, and I am a drummer, singer/songwriter, guitarist from New Jersey, USA. Having started my professional musical career in my early teens, I have been involved in a wide array of projects ranging from Indie/DIY to large scale productions and local bar gigs to nationwide touring. In 2019, “Soul Rock”, my 5th solo effort was released. Since 2015, I have been a member of indie pop/rock band The Wag, which has one multiple “Best Video” awards for our most recent single, “She’s a Devil”. In addition to playing with The Wag and solo performances, you can catch me with bands like Lost Romance, Natalie Farrell, and others around the New York/ New Jersey area. When not performing live, I am often involved in recording sessions with artists from all over the world. I only use Collison Drumsticks, as they are so well balanced and durable! I am also thrilled to partner with 7Drums Custom Drums, Attack Drumheads and Skygel Damper pads.
Keep the Gig
So, you’re an awesome drummer! You auditioned… you got the gig. Now, what happens? How do you keep the gig, and maybe even get other – possibly more desirable -opportunities?
Well, I’m no Neil Peart; I can pull out a chop here or there when I need it, but I’m not going to blow anyone’s mind with rhythmic acrobatics. However, I am busier than I’ve ever been, and I’m even frequently having to turn down gigs.
I’ve been playing with one band for five years, another artist for a year, and get frequent call-backs with several other working bands/musicians and requests for spot stand-ins frequently.
The following are a few principles I follow to make sure that I get the ‘call back’.
Preparation does not end when you get hired
You learned a bunch of songs for the audition/first gig. You’re good, right? No! A common mistake I see musicians (not just drummers) make is they let up as soon as they get the gig. Okay, so the audition and first couple of gigs went well, but it probably wasn’t as good as it could be, which is OKAY. Most band leaders understand that bands and their members get better as they play more together. The key is to keep digging deeper into the material, and even the intricacies of how the other band members play that material so that you keep getting more cohesive as a unit. Know the songs front to back. If you are a multi-instrumentalist, familiarize yourself with progressions and lyrics of songs so that it becomes easier to communicate with the band. Continued growth will not only make you sound better, but it will show that you care and that you have a work ethic. Those are two qualities every bandleader wants in a musician.
Be a good bandmate
In addition to drumming, I am a singer/songwriter and have been a bandleader.
I can tell you first-hand that show day for a bandleader can be nerve-wracking. Recently, I was backing up a singer and I could tell she was having one of those days. In an exchange of txt msgs, I told her I would print copies of the setlist for everyone.
She was so appreciative! It was a simple easy task for me, but it was one less thing she had to worry about that night. Dependability is a very valuable trait in a bandmate. Don’t just show up, collect your money, and go home. Doing little things like helping your guitarist carry his amp, bringing some extra snacks, or just be helpful can go a long way. When you treat musicians well, they tend to value you and want to have the opportunity to return the favor.
Be a better human
I’ve heard it said that when deciding whether or not to take a gig, one must consider the music, the money, and hang…two of those three have to be good! The same can be said about hiring a musician.
Sadly, I don’t think people put enough emphasis on the hang. This is especially important if you are involved in a band that is traveling together.
It’s simple… be a good human. Be compassionate. Remember that everyone has a life outside of the job you are doing, and you don’t know what they may be dealing with. So, patience is key. It’s equally crucial that you not let your stress creep into life inside the band. Terrance Trent Darby sang “beware the reflections that sorrows bring”.
Musicians (and people in general) feed off one another’s vibes. If you bring too much negative energy to a situation, especially early on before a rapport has been formed, you may not be asked to return.
The wrap up
So, there it is. Three simple principles: work hard, be helpful, and don’t be a jerk! It doesn’t hurt to be a good player/performer and to have quality gear. However, these traits have little to do with drumming. A professional attitude and approach will impress your bandmates and employers. When you conduct yourself that way, word gets around. Before you know it, you will be running out of space on your calendar!
Go get that gig, and the call back too!
Joshua is an Endorsed Approach Artist with Collision Drumsticks. Based in New Jersey, he plays for a number of bands and artists, such as The Wag and Natalie Farrell. He is also a session drummer and solo artist. With many years of experience in a range of industries, Joshua is also part of various other projects including “The How It Ends Podcast”. To learn more from Joshua himself, here’s how you can get in touch: