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The Hang Factor

  06/25/10 00:21, by , Categories: Catfish , Tags: barefoot musicnews, catfish butler, debbie shair, hang factor, tour bus, touring musician

by Frank “Catfish” Butler

So there I was, sitting in a meeting at the Los Angeles office of BareFootMusicNews when in walks Debbie Shair, the keyboard player for Heart. You couldn’t find a cooler, more laid-back person if you tried. She was in the neighborhood and stopped by to say hello. Wakitu, Nathan and I immediately abandoned our meeting to “hang” with Debbie. It’s not often that you get to hang out with a musician who plays with a world-famous, world-touring band. Though, admittedly, it happens around here more often than one might think…

Somehow the conversation turned to tour buses and touring and the grind of being on the road. To most people, its all rock-star glamour and parties, but for professional musicians, some things are paramount in their relationship with the other band members. There are a couple of “factors.”

First, of course, it goes without saying that your bandmates are talented musicians. REALLY talented! But there are thousands of talented musicians. Here in Los Angeles, there are hundreds of jaw-dropping musicians milling around, working in studios and on stage, on any given day, just about everywhere you look. So what else does it take to be a successful touring musician? Well, it’s the “Hang Factor,” according to Debbie Shair.

If you think about it, musicians are artists, who are very creative and eccentric (to a degree) and they have their own quirks, like possessing insane musical talent, and being able to come up with lyrics like “pyroclastic, galactic teaspoon” in one sentence. Yes – that teaser is related to this article. Now, imagine putting up to 12 of these fascinating individuals on a bus and having them sleep in bunk beds in a configuration resembling a submarine sleeping berth, and sharing a single bathroom (of limited use).

There are about 24 hours to a day (roughly) the last time I checked, and only 3 or 4 hours are spent on stage, if that. So – for the 20 or so hours when the band is not performing – what keeps the bandmates from killing each other? It is the ability to “hang” with the other musicians, sound crew, roadies, techs, etc…

Sometimes it is THE deciding factor on who gets hired. For example, if a guitarist, bassist or drummer can smoke just about anyone on their instrument of choice, but are egotistical, obnoxious or just a jerk in general, they will most likely be staying home, regardless of their ability to play. Another musician is available that can still get the job done that doesn’t have that flaw.

So all you aspiring touring musicians out there, remember: if you are going to be a pain in the ass, you will most likely spend your glory years playing to your bedroom mirror.

Debbie Shair is currently touring with Heart, on her seventh year with them, by the way, and if I had to rate her musical talent on a scale from 1-10; I would honestly say she was a “10.” But her “Hang Factor” is about a 12.

 

This entry was posted by and is filed under Catfish. Tags: barefoot musicnews, catfish butler, debbie shair, hang factor, tour bus, touring musician

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Comment from: Ed Lapple
Ed Lapple
*****

Right on the money Frank. After watching “Amadeus", I am pretty sure that Mozart wouldn’t have been the easiest to Hang With, not to mention, too many notes. I noticed that you mentioned bathroom size and usability, but left out deodorant & mouthwash. On the long road those items and their competent application can become just as important as having a spare set of strings and knowing when to bend them.

07/04/10 @ 21:53
 

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