Home LJS Podcast Jazz Tips and Advice LJS 87: Inside the Development of a Jazz Musician (feat. Chris Davis)

LJS 87: Inside the Development of a Jazz Musician (feat. Chris Davis)

Welcome to episode 87 of the LJS Podcast where today we are joined by special guest jazz trumpeter Chris Davis to talk all about his development into the jazz musician he is today. Chris talks about the stuff he practiced during his formidable years and some excellent lessons we can learn from his story. Listen in!

Listen to episode 87

Today’s episode of the LJS Podcast is a real treat! I really enjoyed talking to professional jazz trumpeter Chris Davis all about his musical development and how he became the amazing player that he is today. We can all learn a lot from Chris’ story.

Chris is a professional jazz musician and educator based out of Chicago. He has toured and played with a host of star jazz musicians and is an important part of the Chicago jazz scene. He also teaches students around the area at schools and in his private studio. The bottom line is Chris is the real deal.

He also is the host of the Behind the Note Podcast, which is a show for musicians that gives out advice for having a successful music career. He has a host of A-list guests on the show and is definitely worth checking out.

In addition, he has an awesome new resource specifically for trumpet players called Trumpet Lessons HQ where he’s dishing out lessons for becoming a better trumpet player.

Chris has a great story about the development of his musicianship. Here’s what we talk about in today’s episode:

  • Chris’ musical beginnings and why he chose the trumpet to stick it to the man.

  • When Chris first realized he wanted to become a professional musician and how that changed everything.

  • Lessons he learned from touring with the likes of Benny Golson and Wynton Marsalis in college.

  • How 6 months on a cruise ship gave his jazz playing a serious boost.

  • What he practiced during his formidable years, and what you should be practicing too.

Regardless of what you want to get out of playing jazz, whether it just be a hobby or you have aspirations to play professionally, we can all learn a lot from Chris’ story.

Read the Transcript

Brent: All right, what’s up everybody? My name is Brent. I am the jazz musician behind the website, Learnjazzstandards.com, which is a blog, and a podcast all geared toward helping you become a better jazz musician. I’m really excited you’re here and welcome to another episode of the LJS podcast. Welcome if you are a first time listener to this show. Or if you’re a returning listener, someone who listens regularly, I want to especially thank you for hanging out with me. In return, I have a very value packed episode for you today. I have on the show a very special guest. He is professional jazz trumpet player, Chris Davis all the way from Chicago and man, today’s episode was a real treat for me just to be able to talk to him and learn from him. I know it’s going to be a real treat for you as well.

On today’s show, Chris just goes over his story of how he became a professional jazz musician, really starting from the very beginning, his evolution as a student starting from even how he first became acquainted to his instrument to how he decided he’d want to play jazz from his after college training and playing with jazz legends and all kinds of crazy stuff, and the lessons that he’s learned in between. Specifically I really enjoyed hearing him talk about what he was practicing during the more formidable years of his musicianship that really helped him become the solid jazz musician he is today. I know, just by listening to Chris’s story today, you’re going to get some ideas for your own playing. That’s what this show’s all about, right? This show is all about helping you become a better jazz musician.
I think sometimes the best way we can do that is simply by hearing the stories of those who are successful at what they’re doing.

Whether or not you want to play music professionally or not, that doesn’t matter. I know a lot of people listening to this show are hobbyists but this show, this episode, this hearing Chris’s story can teach you so much about how to improve your musicianship and the things you actually should be working on, so very excited for this interview.

Now, Chris Davis, he also has a podcast and it’s called the Behind the Note podcast. The Behind the Note podcast, it’s a show for musicians, a show aimed to educate, inspire, motivate and empower. It’s his hope that musicians come there to get advice for a successful music career. I highly suggest you check out that show, again, even if you’re not aspiring to be a professional musician, so much to learn there at Behind the Note podcast. It’s Behindthenote.com. There’s one other amazing thing that Chris is doing right now that I want to share with you. This is specifically for trumpet players, so if you’re a trumpet player pay special attention. He has a website called Trumpetlessonshq.com, which he is using to inspire and educate trumpet players so go ahead over there to Trumpetlessonshq.com. He does talk a little bit more about these at the end of the show.
All right, now without further ado, let’s jump into our talk with Chris Davis.

All right, joining me from Chicago, on the show today is jazz trumpeter, Chris Davis. He’s also the host of the Behind the Note podcast. Chris, welcome to the show. Thanks for being on today.

Chris: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Brent: All right, so some of my audience might not know who you are, so I think it’d be great if we just start out our talk together, just give me the, I guess the two minute Chris Davis Bio. Tell me what you do, what you’re all about.

Chris: Yeah, so what I do is I perform music for a living, and I also teach music for a living. In a nutshell, that’s what I do. I’m very thankful and blessed that I’m able to do those two things. It’s all about music and it’s what I love to do. I get to touch a lot of people that way.

Brent: That’s awesome. Are you teaching just students around the Chicago area? Are you teaching Skype lessons? What does that look like for you?

Chris: Yeah, so, I’m physically going to schools, and I help students at the school that they’re at. I’m really linked with District 205, which is actually the school district that I grew up in. They hired me now, so I work there as a brass instructor.

Brent: Congrats.

Chris: Thank you very much. I also get to do guest artists type of performances and clinics and things like that. That’s what teaching looks like for me right now.

Brent: Wonderful. Then on the performance side of things, how’s that looking for you? You just playing locally around Chicago or …

Chris: That’s exactly right by design as well.

Brent: Yeah.

Chris: Because I have a family and even before … Man, let me tell you this. When I was 17 years old, I made the decision that I wanted to work locally primarily and not really travel. I did travel in my early 20s and thankful for that. I might have some more traveling in my future, but I am primarily a local musician. I work with a lot of different groups, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Larry King Orchestra. I lead my own band, Chris Davis Jazz Tech. Then I’m also a side man in various groups around town.

Brent: Awesome. That’s so great. That sounds a lot like me. Tell me how you got started out with music in general. Like, where did it all begin for you? I think my audience … I kind of just want to talk to you today about your story. I want to know, you know, a lot of my audience, they want to know how to improve as musicians, and they want to know how to get from point A to point B. I think it’d be great just to hear your story today. Where did you get started with just your exposure to music?

Chris: The exposure came from being at home with my father. He would blast his music throughout the entire house. He had these speakers that were probably four feet tall or so, approximately, and it was loud music in the house, man, Motown and you know, things that he grew up on as a child. There was also a lot of gospel music in the house. My father and my grandfather are preachers of the gospel, so I would be in church all the time. I just loved the sound of the gospel choir and I also liked the radio. Believe it or not, I would just lay down on my stomach, as a kid, in front of the radio and look at it as if it were the television.

Brent: That’s awesome.

Chris: Yeah, I would just really get into the different sounds that I was hearing. I didn’t really understand everything I was hearing, but I was fascinated by that sound. One memory that stands out to me, I was in the car, and I asked my mom, “What is that sound that I here,” and she told me, “Oh, that’s the saxophone,” and so I wanted to play saxophone because I liked the sound. Eventually one day the band directors of the school district came to my school. I was in fourth grade, and they had all the instruments, or a lot of the instruments laid out on the table. They said, “What do you want to play? Take your pick.” I was looking for the saxophone and it wasn’t there.

I said, “I want to play saxophone,” and they said, “Oh, I’m sorry. Do you own a saxophone?” “No I don’t.” “Okay, well, we have a flute here and we have a clarinet,” and they said, “Well, you can start on one of these two instruments and people normally switch over.” I was a kid, man, so I thought those, clarinet and flute, I thought that was for girls, so I didn’t want to do that.

Brent: Okay, so, which one did you pick?

Chris: Neither.

Brent: Okay.

Chris: Well, what happened was the band director … I said, “No, I don’t want to do either one of those things,” so he needed brass players, and so he had a trombone mouthpiece and a trumpet mouthpiece. He said, “Test these out,” and I buzzed into them. He told me, “Yeah, you sound good on both of them. You can pretty much take your pick.” Then he proceeded to try to sell me on playing trombone. He was like, “Yeah, you’ll be in the front of the marching band. Then because of that you’ll probably be in the newspaper.”

Brent: Oh, man, that’s funny.

Chris: He was really trying to sell me, so for that reason I picked trumpet.

Brent: Nice. Yeah, you don’t like being sold to, even at an early age. That makes a lot of sense.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, and so that’s how I ended up playing trumpet. But before they came … I forgot to tell you this. This is important. There was a tour that the middle school would do. They would visit all the grade schools and so I wanted to be in the band because they had been coming to our school one or twice a year since kindergarten. I finally had the chance to join in fourth grade and so I did.

Brent: Going back to picking your instrument, I think it’s so funny. I don’t know, when you think about picking an … like why did you pick the instrument that you primarily play? Whenever you look back at it, it just always seem weird. It’s like, either it was random, sort of like how you’re describing it or I’m thinking about why did I even want to learn how to play the … like why was the guitar the instrument I wanted to pick? It really comes down to, I thought distortion sound cool and that’s so lame, right? But at the same time, it’s interesting. You know, when you’re a kid, you don’t really think about it in a practical way. Like, you know, is the trumpet me or not? Or, you know, what reasons do I like the trumpet? It’s usually just some weird reason and then it ends up like, I mean possibly changing your life, right?

Chris: That’s true. That’s exactly what happened.

Brent: At what point did you start getting serious about music? Like actually, you know, you got that trumpet. Is that where it started happening, just school band, you started practicing it a lot? Was there some moment where you’re just like, “Oh man, I’m really into being,” maybe not even a musician, like you wanted to do that professionally when you grew up but when you got serious about actually practicing it?

Chris: There were a couple of different points in my life. I feel like that happened in levels and sometimes you don’t really understand that there’s another level until you get to a certain point. The first time for me, I was in high school, 15 years old and before that it was all fun. I had people, I mean, I’ve gotta tell you, I came through a very rich music program so before I even joined band, the band was competing and winning all of the competitions since probably like the ’60s, like literally. Everybody was enthusiastic about the music so when I started in grade school, I had the middle school students to look up to and I was competing with them. They looked down on us. They said, “Hey, you can’t do what we do.” I mean that’s not really healthy but that’s what was going on.

Brent: Right.

Chris: That motivated me to practice just to show them, “Hey, I can do what you do.” That kind of continued all into high school. I got bored, man. I got bored. One day I was sitting in band rehearsal and I just totally spaced out. That was not like me. I’m a very focused person. I was sitting there one day and I decided right there in band rehearsal, “I’m going to quit. I’m not playing music anymore ever again.” I knew that I wasn’t the best trumpet player in the world. Actually, I was far from it but in my little band program I was and I wasn’t being challenged so I said, “I’m going to quit.” I was going through it in my head, “Well, when am I going to quit? We’ve got this performance coming up and then that one. We’ve got this competition. I can’t quit. I don’t have no time to quit.”
I was really thinking about this. I said, “Oh, there’s a gap on this particular day. Okay, I’m going to quit on this day.” I had it all planned out and the ironic thing is, the day before I was going to quit, I walked into a sound check with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra …

Brent: Wow.

Chris: … with Wynton Marsalis. Yeah, sound check, not the actual concert, sound check. I walked in. They were at Orchestra Hall. I walked in from the back of the hall and the moment I walked in, man, the sound just cut to my heart. At that moment I knew this is what I am supposed to do with my life. I’m supposed to perform music, create music.

Brent: Wow.

Chris: That’s when I got serious right there in that moment.

Brent: That’s incredible.

Chris: Yeah.

Brent: It was like a one moment sort of a thing like, you know, at one second you’re about to quit, just throw in the towel altogether. Then the next moment you’re seeing Wynton Marsalis play at just a sound check and now all of a sudden you’re like 100% in.

Chris: That’s correct. Like I told you, I was getting bored in school and when I walked into that concert hall, there was clearly another level of musicianship that I yet had attained. I wanted to work toward that. Yeah, when I heard that sound, decision was made right then.

Brent: Now, were you interested in jazz before this or was this a moment of becoming in jazz as well? I know you grew up in the gospel scene so I’m sure those things just tie together quite well.

Chris: Yeah, well I grew up in church but I didn’t get to play in church.

Brent: I was going to ask you that too if you, if that’s how you got your chops.

Chris: Yeah, I wish I did. I still regret that. I have to let that go.

Brent: Yeah.

Chris: But because all the great musicians that I know that played in church, they are incredible but that’s history. But no, I didn’t. I played solos on occasion but I didn’t play with the choir every week until much, much later.

Brent: Okay.

Chris: I loved jazz almost from the beginning because the program that I came through was rooted in jazz. We had a great concert band but we were really rooted in jazz. Since the beginning, I liked jazz.

Brent: That’s great. You basically heard Wynton Marsalis play. You got really serious. What did life look like after that? Like, as soon as that happened you said, “Whoa, there’s this level of music that I didn’t know existed and I want to do this. I want to sound like that.” What happened? What changed? What was the next steps for you?

Chris: Well, I just, you know, I finished high school. I had probably another couple of years of high school. Then I went to college, Northern Illinois University and that was the best choice for me because we performed so much. We had easily 100-200 songs in our book. We didn’t perform all of it but we certainly read all of it. That was a great thing for me. Let me tell you, my first tour was with Benny Golson.

Brent: You toured with Benny Golson?

Chris: The first tour in college for me was with Benny Golson.

Brent: Whoa!

Chris: I had a very special year because he was the first. Then, that was in November, and then in December, if I can remember all this correctly. Okay, let me not try to go in order but that I’ll just tell you, that school year I toured with Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Heath, Wynton Marsalis. I forget who we ended with but it was an all-star year. That was just my first year so I had an entire college experience of working with musicians of that caliber, not to mention they would come to the school and give workshops …

Brent: Wow.

Chris: … you know, all the time so I was the worst trumpet player in the jazz studio. I had a lot to work toward and I was really thankful for that. Yeah, so that’s what happened next. After school, that’s a whole other story. We can get into that if you like but that’s what happened after that. I developed my skills in college.

Brent: Okay, so let me understand. You were touring with your college combo? How exactly was this happening?

Chris: Good question.

Brent: How was all these insanely legendary musicians coming through and touring with you guys? Explain that a little bit.

Chris: My teacher’s a legend in education. His name is Ron Carter, not the bassist Ron Carter.

Brent: Oh, okay.

Chris: I want to make that clear. People would come to a clinic for Ron Carter and say, “Hey, this ain’t Ron Carter,” but it’s a different Ron Carter. But he is probably the best educator in jazz music and he’s very well respected. He had the respect and love of all of these musicians and so for him it would just be a phone call. He would say, “Can you come,” and they would say, “Yeah, of course, anything for you.” As a result, all of us students there had the experience of working with these guys, so not in a jazz combo setting but the jazz big band setting. That was my experience.

Brent: That’s amazing. What were some of the big lessons that you learned through just being able to be on stage with these guys? What were some of the things that you were able to take away?

Chris: Listen to this.

Brent: I mean, I know that, that’s a question that’s, you know, you could write a book about.

Chris: No, this is great. So many things. Listen, when I first heard Benny Golson and Curtis Fuller specifically, my mouth dropped because I literally said this out loud, “They sound just like they do on the recording.”

Brent: Right.

Chris: That’s amazing because, you know when you record you can alter some stuff.

Brent: Right, right.

Chris: Yeah, but no, these guys, man, they sound like the recording. That’s one thing that this sound was pure and real. Some other things that I took away, with all of them there was a seriousness that came along with the job. They were all serious about music. It was an attitude of, okay, it’s time to work. Let’s get to work.

Brent: Right, yep.

Chris: There wasn’t any skating, you know? It’s very business like and as a result, we were able to have fun. It wasn’t like, oh, this is music, let’s have fun and we’re not really going to care about the details. It was actually the opposite and as a result, we really sounded great. That’s one common thread that really stands out right away. Also, most of the guys, I mean there was only a small handful, most of the guys were people, they were nice to people. They were just nice to be with. We had meals with these guys everyday on tour. They sat with us. They didn’t go off to a different room. They sat with us. They traveled on the bus with us.

Brent: Wow.

Chris: Very approachable people and that’s another common thing I noticed. If you really consider this, most people that you look up to, of course not everybody, but most people are in the position that they are in because they are giving people.

Brent: Okay, so let’s move from that a little bit and, well, you can keep talking about your experience in college if you like, if this pertains to that, but what are some of the things that you were focusing on in the practice room when you were in this kind of situation, this sort of time? What were some of the things that you were really spending a lot of your time doing as a jazz musician?

Chris: Now you’ve got to remember, no, I’ll tell you what my strength is, just the trumpet in general.

Brent: Okay.

Chris: No really jazz at this time. My teacher told me, Ron Carter told me, “You need to learn how to play the piano.” I said to myself, not to him, I wouldn’t dare but you know I said, “I’m not a piano player. I’m a trumpet player. Why do I need to learn piano?” He just gave me a look, “You go practice piano and don’t come back here until you’ve done that,” you know? It wasn’t, “Don’t come back here until you have mastered it,” just “Don’t come back until you have practiced the piano.” I sat down at the piano, man, and the first, man, the first few times it was really rough. It was …

Brent: Right.

Chris: … really, really rough, man. I don’t remember what song but I was trying to learn some jazz standard. I can’t remember what it was now but man, just getting around, 251s, man, even black cords, so clunky and physically hard to do but I worked through that. As a result, my playing also actually was very clunky before, which is probably why my teacher told me what he did, play a piano. I worked out the piano, man, and I was able to navigate through this song and it was smooth, you know? I wouldn’t perform it but it was so much better. Now, as a result, now I’m a lot more familiar with this song. The next thing that I did was added my voice. I started to sing. I started to sing. I would play the piano, comping myself, and then I would sing the melodies as if I were improvising. The next thing I did after that, I tried to play it on trumpet. I tried to play what I sang. That was another painful process.

Brent: Right.

Chris: Then you’ve got to also remember playing piano and trumpet, those are two different keys, right, so the piano’s Concert C, concert instrument. I play a B-flat trumpet. Sometimes I had to think extra hard. You know, if I’m playing a C on piano, well that’s really a D on the trumpet. So much thinking. It was so frustrating but I got through all of that. I would sing, play it on the trumpet, and then eventually it all got smooth. It all got smooth, you know?

Brent: Tell me a little bit about … This is a really great process.

Chris: Yeah.

Brent: I’m loving what you’re saying here. Tell me a little bit about this. What exactly … so basically what I’m hearing from you is you learned, it sounds to me, the harmony on the piano of whatever particular tune you were learning. Then after that you were singing the melody before you even touched your horn. Then after you had that part down, you were picking up your horn and playing the melody of the song. What, in this process, do you think, what are the benefits of it?

Chris: Now, you’re correct. The melody wasn’t so hard to get but I was singing improvised solos. Yeah, the benefit of doing that is ear training and I didn’t even realize it. I didn’t understand the benefits until I looked back and said, “Man, I sound better. Why do I sound better?”

Brent: Yeah.

Chris: Ear training, I was learning the relationship, the distance relationship from chord to chord. Actually, my intonation improved from the singing, from trying to match the trumpet to my voice and vice versa. It’s a lot of ear training that was happening without me even really thinking about it too hard.

Brent: Right, yeah. Yeah, I just wanted to add to that, like, this act of singing is just, it’s just such an incredible, powerful tool. You know a lot of people want to go straight to scales. They want to go straight to, you know, tools to help them get through chord changes but when you’re able to sing actual jazz language first, that means what that does is it proves that you actually have this stuff internalized in your head. You’re actually hearing these ideas. They aren’t coming from your instrument, they’re coming from you. All that’s left to do in the process that you’re describing is just connect those dots, connect that ear to instrument relationship. Would you say that’s what going on here?

Chris: That’s exactly right. That’s correct.

Brent: Awesome. What else were you working on?

Chris: That piano thing, that was one part of it. Now a different thing that happened was transcribing. That was another part of it. Again, same teacher, different time though. We were talking about transcribing in class and he told us, “Pick a solo, and listen to it, and then sing it,” there’s that vocal again. The internalization, did I say that right?

Brent: Yeah, you said that right, yeah.

Chris: You have to internalize the music if you’re going to be authentic and true to it. There is no way around it so singing is imperative. We picked a solo and we had to sing it. Only after you could sing it could you touch the, in my case, the trumped and try to figure it out. Now, I found that the singing was very challenging again. First of all, I would forget. I would forget what was coming next in the solo.

Brent: Right.

Chris: I didn’t know it. I had to listen to it. I had to get repetition. Man, easily 100 times I listened to it. Listen, this particular solo, it took me about a week, man, just to sing it.

Brent: Do you remember what solo it was?

Chris: It was a Clifford Brown solo. I don’t remember.

Brent: Oh, man.

Chris: I don’t remember which one I chose because I’ve studied a few of them over time. But it’s a …

Brent: I have a feeling it was hard though.

Chris: But you know what it was, melodic.

Brent: Yeah.

Chris: The melody is what helped me to remember. Eventually, after a week of listening, I was able to sing it like another week after that. Then, believe it or not, when I picked up the trumpet, that was the fastest process. That was the fastest step because again it was internalized.

Brent: Yeah.

Chris: Initially there was a part where I had to find out, where is this note. Now, keep in mind, I know the trumpet very well but I still have to find it. Where is this note? Okay, where is the next note? Okay, where is the next note? But after that, for like two minutes, man, the solo just flew out. I didn’t have to continue to find notes because it was internalized. It was as if …

Brent: Right.

Chris: I had practiced it on trumpet for two weeks but I had just picked it up.

Brent: Now, I want everybody listening right now in the audience to just consider everything that Chris is saying. You know, a lot of, you know jazz is a lot … I hear this all the time how jazz is not very easy. You’re right, it’s not the easiest forms of music and you know, in a lot of ways jazz musicians are a little bit obsessive. I mean, you’re talking about, Chris, I mean you’ve, first of all you’ve listened to this solo hundreds of times, right?

Chris: Literally.

Brent: You’ve practiced singing with it probably another hundred times. Then the easiest part is actually translating onto your instrument. But, you know, I’m sure that takes many repetitions to actually be able to play that right and play it along with the recording. But as a result of this, you are building up this, like, the results are huge. The rewards are huge from actually going through this process. I don’t want anybody to be intimidated listening today. I want you to understand, there’s a reason why you’re doing this. There’s a reason why, you know, by putting in this work, this time to do this stuff the right way, it can, oh man, it can just do incredible things. Wouldn’t you say that, Chris?

Chris: Yeah, that’s true, exactly right.

Brent: Okay, so let’s move on a little bit to the after college thing. What happened after that? Did you start performing as a musician? Did you start teaching right away? What did that look like? You know, let’s just say, you graduated and then what happened?

Chris: There were two key points in my development after college. One was this, I went to Carnival Cruise lines.

Brent: Okay.

Chris: I performed every day. I graduated in December. In January, I was on a cruise ship. I went with the purpose though, I went knowing I wanted to develop my trumpet playing. What happened was, all right, everything I learned in school came out. I tell you, man, when I was in school, I was not that good. Oh man, it was rough but the release of college, not being there, I was able to just relax, I guess, and all the lessons I learned came out.

One pivotal point for me was working on the cruise ship because I had a schedule. Every morning I would wake up by 6 o’clock at the latest, in the morning, wake up at 6 am at the latest. I would exercise, and I would pray. Then I would … not in that order, I would actually pray first, exercise, and the third thing I would do was practice trumpet. I would spend 60 minutes on the trumpet and then I would go, you know, have breakfast, come back and have my second practice session around 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning for a couple of hours. By noon, I would have three hours every day and this is everyday thing.

At night my job was to play trumpet. I was a show band musician. But when my job was over, I would be done with work at 10 o’clock every night so when my job was over, I would go to the lobby with the jazz trio and play jazz with them until midnight, 1 o’clock in the morning. I did this every day for like six months and so that was huge in my development. I got a chance to make mistakes and keep trumpet on my face.

Brent: Wow. Right.

Chris: That’s the reason I went to the show. That was key for me. The second pivotal moment was shortly after when I came home. I forgot to tell you. The reason I stopped the ship was because I got a phone call to teach. That was kind of unique because I did not apply for this job.

Brent: Okay.

Chris: I ended up accepting the job so teaching is a whole different thing and because teaching was new to me, I didn’t have the trumpet on my face as much, and I was losing my skill physically. My muscles weren’t trumpet ready so I rededicated myself to practicing. I heard a myth. I don’t know if it’s a myth or if it’s truth. I heard a myth that I went to my solos, didn’t miss a day of practice for like five years.

Brent: Wow.

Chris: I don’t know if that’s true or not but I wanted to get close to that and I didn’t but I practiced …

Brent: Yeah.

Chris: I practiced every day for like three months and what was weird was that, that did a lot, a lot. It got me through that year. I ended up …

Brent: Sorry to interrupt you, Chris. I’m hearing a lot of consistency in your schedule.

Chris: Certainly.

Brent: Both through your first breakthrough moment and now your second breakthrough moment.

Chris: Certainly.

Brent: It’s just a lot of consistency and like, man, you were playing a lot. You were doing a lot of stuff. You also had a really organize, structured system going on, which that can’t hurt, right? Yeah, anyways, that’s something that just stuck out to me, just the consistency.

Chris: That’s right.

Brent: You know, that’s a great lesson for everybody listening today is, whatever you’re going to do, just be consistent about it. Okay, sorry, go on.

Chris: Yeah, that’s right because there’s no way around it, especially for a brass player. Taking a two days off the horn, it’s death. It’s death to what you worked up to that point but that’s another story. It is very important to keep the horn on your face. I really got lucky. Somebody heard of me and I joined a band where we performed every Saturday night at a local buffet. This happened every Saturday night for one year. It ended up that I was the only horn player. It didn’t start that way but it ended up that way. That was another key point in my development. The reason is, man, we were like in the neighborhood where basically you had to really be playing or the people would just look at you like, what are you doing here?

Brent: Okay.

Chris: You know, while I might have been okay technically, my solos weren’t really connecting to the people. I mean, what are we playing for if we’re not connecting to the people.

Brent: Right.

Chris: Over that year, I learned how to do that, you know, through trial and error. Yeah, so one thing is this, you’ve just got to play from the heart. Nobody really cares about all the fancy stuff you can do. It does not matter. It doesn’t matter at all. But I only learned that least from being able to play every week with this band.

Brent: Yeah, I can also test to that too, having something consistent to go play. I think for the last … I’ve had a bunch of steady gigs over the years but, you know, particularly I have a Saturday gig. I play every single Saturday. I’ve been doing it for about five years now. I mean, just even having that one place, I mean, well, just even one place to always come back to and use your practice sessions on is really great. Thanks for sharing all that, Chris. I appreciate it and just hearing about, you know, just how you developed over that time. I mean, just a lot of, honestly just listening to you talk, there’s just so many great, valuable lessons packed in here in how you just developed.

I want to switch gears a little bit, close off a little bit by talking about your podcast, the Behind the Note podcast. I wonder if you could just tell us all what this is and you know, why you started it?

Chris: Sure. Behind the Note podcast is advice for a successful music career. We get to that advice by interviewing musicians, both famous and local. We talk to them about how they have been successful in their career. Some good examples, I’ve had John Clayton on the show who is known as a composer and bass player.

Brent: Awesome.

Chris: I always tell people who don’t know him, he arranged the Star Spangled Banner for Whitney Houston for the Super Bowl. People who don’t know her … Yeah.

Brent: That’s funny. I had no idea.

Chris: Yeah. People who don’t know his work, they say, “Oh yeah, I heard Whitney Houston sing that,” because that’s the most unique version of the Star Spangled Banner.

Brent: Okay. Okay.

Chris: Then we’ve had, like, I’ve recently had Wynton Marsalis on the show, Terrell Stafford, but some people that you might not know. Shannon Curtis makes a great living from playing house concerts. I’ve had Jeff Schneider on. He’s really good with Skype lessons and other people. I try to cover the whole spectrum of music, what it means to earn a living as a musician because there’s not just one way. The starving artist saying does not have to be true for you. I made that for people who care to get better and earn their living in music.

Brent: That’s so awesome, yeah. It’s a great show, by the way. Everybody should go check that out. What’s the link that they can go check that out, Chris?

Chris: It’s Behindthenote.com. Also, wherever you listen to podcasts, that’s where we are as well.

Brent: I highly suggest everybody check that. It’s a great show. I personally listen to it. Even if your aspirations are not to be professional musicians, it’s just a value-packed show. Everybody should go check it out so Behindthenote.com. Is there anything else that we can share with the audience today, Chris, to lead them towards, for you?

Chris: Yes, certainly. Brent, I have something new that I’m working on.

Brent: Okay.

Chris: People have come to me in the past. You know, you’re a musician so countless times I’m sure this has happened to you, as it has happened to me. You play a show and somebody approaches you and they say, “Oh, you sounded so good. I used to play guitar.”

Brent: Yeah, that’s definitely happened to me before.

Chris: Yeah, so I get that so much, “I used to play trumpet,” and then they reminisce and say things like, “I wish I’d still kept it going.” I helped this man who was 50 something years old. He said, “Hey, I want to play trumpet again.” I said, “Okay, bring your horn. Let me hear you play.” I went on and I helped him to get back what he had and more. Long story short, I have something. I’m building a community right now and it’s called Trumpetlessonshq.com, and if you go there right now, it’s an opportunity to join the email list. If you do that, there’s a checklist you get of books and tools that you’ll need on your journey. Also, there’s some lessons that will come to your inbox to help you regain what you had. What I’m discovering is, a lot of people around mid 30s or so, or a little older but primarily mid 30s, they want to play trumpet again. Go to Trumpetlessonshq.com, join the email list, and we’ll get you started on your way.

Brent: That’s awesome. Okay, everybody who plays the trumpet, who’s listening to this right now, Trumpetlessonshq.com. All right, Chris, well, thank you so much. I want to thank you so much for being on this show and just, man, just hearing your story has been super inspiring and I know that everybody in the audience got a lot out of it so thanks for doing what you do and I hope to have you on the show again sometime soon.

Chris: It’s my pleasure, Brent. Thanks for having me today.

Brent: All right, that’s all for today’s show. I want to thank you for listening. Thanks for tuning in. Remember you can go to Behindthenote.com or Trumpetlessonshq.com to check out some of this awesome stuff that Chris Davis is doing. I want to thank again our guest, Chris, for just giving a lot of value to me and of course to you listening today. It’s much appreciated. As I always say at the end of the show, if you got some value out of this episode, go to iTunes or your favorite podcast listening service and leave a rating and review. That just helps other people find this show, greatly appreciate the help.

Now, next week we are going to be having another episode, another awesome show, Episode 88. I look forward to seeing you back right then.

Brent Vaartstrahttp://www.brentvaartstra.com
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for learnjazzstandards.com which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


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