In this episode, Jared interviews singer/songwriter Bill Small. Bill has recorded several albums, owned his own recording studio, and coaches artists and business owners.
Hey gigging pros. It's Jared and welcome to another episode of The Gigging Musician Podcast. I'm super excited today we've got a musician joining us. His name is Bill small. Bill small is a singer songwriter, multi instrumentalist, entrepreneur, artist, producer, vocal coach, business and personal coach. That is a mouthful bill. He is also the co host of the Subtle Art Of Not Yelling podcast, and founder of Artist Mind Bill, thank you so much for joining us here. Oh, thanks for having me. Jared. I'm super excited. You do a lot of things. I'm gonna ask you a lot about that. I feel like as artists, we all do a lot of things. So tell us a bit about who you are. What do you do right now? Well, you're right. I do do a lot of things. I've kind of narrowed it down. I feel like I've narrowed it down mostly to I think I'm lying, but I narrowed it down mostly to I play music. I you know, I perform music. I write music. I make records. I play on other people's records. And I coach people. Off course, you mentioned the podcast, so we got to throw that in there too, as well. There's always more. But those are the main things. Yeah, that's awesome. What kind of music do you play? That's a great question. I think if we're going to go straight genre, I was in a band for 16 years here in Texas that's considered kind of Americana, country rock kind of thing. myself, when I make my records, sometimes they're a little more folky. Sometimes they're a little more rock and blues influenced. When I was younger, I moved to Austin, Texas in 1990. In a blues band, and there was a there was a very healthy blues music scene in Austin, Texas at that time, so we played all of the blues clubs in Austin with a little three piece blues band, you know, six nights a week. Hmm. Sounds like a nice quite a while. Yeah, that sounds like a pretty good gig. It was fun. That's awesome. You say you used to? Is there no longer such a big blue scene in Austin? Or did you move away? All of the above the blue scene started to evaporate. I noticed for me that well, I love that kind of music. Have an affinity for it. There's a lot there was a lot of kind of white boy with the Woo's you know, and I don't, I don't really write that kind of music. I found that I was still writing songs but writing more in folk music, or singer songwriter kind of style on acoustic guitar. But then I go out and be playing blues bars and guitar slinging all night. And after a while, in trying to put the two together, it kind of wasn't working and I needed to change something. Yeah, I'm curious, why do you think it wasn't working? Several reasons. I think it took me a while to figure out who I really wanted to be musically. I'm, I feel like I'm really lucky in that. I can jump into a lot of different styles of music and find a place. But as an artist, as a writer, I needed to really find and be okay with. Here's me. This is what I sound like. And I would have I always had bands. And I'd have various band members who might want to go a different way. You know, they hear us more over here in this world or over there in that world. And I would try to accommodate that. And it just, it took me a while to be able to say okay, all that's great. Here's what I do. Yeah, that's super cool. You mentioned a lot. There are a lot of things I want to dive into including the Art of Songwriting. Because we don't cover that that much on the Gigging Musician Podcast. We talk a lot with cover musicians. But we've recently been getting into songwriters and composers and six string electric violinists. So before we do that, What instruments do you play? Because you said you're a multi instrumentalist and singer. Yeah. I started out as a singer. That's all I wanted to do. When I was As a kid, you told a story. I heard you tell a story the other day that you saw someone play violin, you went to a concert. And you said, I want to do that. And I used to watch my sister have a sister who's 10 years older than me. She played guitar and sang. And I thought that was really cool. And she gave me a guitar, her old guitar when I was 10, taught me a couple of chords. And then, in fifth grade, I saw my school choir, get up on stage and perform. And all I knew was I want to do that. So the next semester, I got in choir, got my first solo to sing. Got a whole bunch of applause, and I was hooked forever. That's amazing. announced, I announced when I was 12 years old to my parents that I was going to be a musician. Yeah. And I never looked back. That's awesome. So Oh, go ahead. Good. So singer first, you know, I've always considered myself a singer. First. I learned to play guitar so I could accompany myself. And started writing or playing around with writing songs. Very early on when I was 11, or 12. They were terrible. But it was, it was something to keep trying to do. And I've been writing ever sent. That's amazing. And I play guitar, I play bass. I moved to Nashville in 2001 for a little while. And what you learn there is that however good a guitar player you think you are. The guy who lives next door to you is better. And he's not getting any work either. Because there's a million guitar players. But I had a studio and I've played on a lot of demos. So I would play as many of the instruments as I could. I've functional knowledge of playing keyboard or piano. I play guitar, acoustic electric, whatever I could I play bass. And that led to me actually playing bass in bands and and for other people and on record. Wow. So pretty, pretty broad ability on multi instruments singing. So after your first concert in fifth grade, like what was the path like for you right after that, because I know at one point you went to college for music. I did. So the path after that we had a robust amount of music in our school, which was great. I also got very interested in theater. And I grew up in New Jersey, about 17 miles from Manhattan. And the town next door was Montclair, New Jersey, and they had a theatre company back then called the whole Theatre Company, which was started by Olympia Dukakis, the actress and her brother. And I started taking classes there and being in musicals there and learning theater there. So in those years between 12 and say, 15 or 16, when I got more into loud guitars, and rock and roll, I was all about musical theater. And, and still playing guitar and listening that kind of music but but I learned a ton about performing and being on stage from those years of being in theater. And then you get into high school and you're listening, rock and roll. And that's what I wanted to do. So I I started focusing more on playing guitar and doing that sort of thing. I didn't think I was going to go to college. My parents talked to me about it. I moved twice in high school and ended up spending my senior year in Oklahoma, of all places, wow. And I actually told my parents, I don't want to go to college, because I don't know where I want to go or what I want to study. And I feel like I'm just gonna go party and waste your money. So I want to move back to New Jersey, and reconnect with my old friends there and try to play music. Mm hmm. So after high school, that's exactly what I did. And I I worked in New York, I started working in recording studios. And playing in bands, of course. I did that for about two years. And it got I got to the point where I didn't know what I was doing anymore. So I decided okay, maybe it's time to go to school. Yeah. And I went to Berklee College of Music in Boston. For a couple of years. I didn't finish I studied voice there. And then when I left, I left mostly because I was spending every other weekend back in New York, playing shows. So I thought, well, I guess I better just go play shows. Yeah, it sounds like that time in New York was incredibly important. Because is that also when you kind of learned the ropes of a recording studio? Absolutely. Yeah. And how did how did you like, get into that scene too, because that's a whole nother topic is recording studios, you know, and I've owned a couple of those. And I've always had project studios in my house since that became inexpensive enough to do. I walked into my first recording studio at age 15, with my band, because my sister was dating the guy who owned the place. And I loved it. I thought it was awesome. I actually found that cassette tape from those recordings. A couple of months ago, it is absolutely horrid. Terrible. No one will ever hear that except me. We might try to try to get that on the end of the podcast. No way, under no circumstances will that happen. But all right. But I remember what it felt like and I really loved it. And when I was in high school, the cassette four track came out. So I got a Fostex x 15, cassette four track, a little Roland drum machine. And some kind of microphone. I don't even know what it was. And I spent my senior year mostly locked up in my room. Recording stuff. Wow. And learning how to, you know, put eight different instruments on a four track? How do you do that? And, and so that, that gave me the bug. When I moved back to New Jersey, I hooked up with a friend who was building a recording studio, I helped with that. Tried to learn how to function in that world, not in my bedroom, but in oral both on both sides of the glass, how do I be a competent engineer, and that's back in the tape days when you really had to think about punching in. Yeah. And then I just always liked it. I haven't had an affinity for it. I liked being in that world. So every chance I got, I would get back in a recording studio. And as soon as the kind of home recording equipment became possible, I started being able to do that at home. That's really what I did for a living in Nashville out of my house. And then I had a studio outside of my home in in Austin, Texas for a while. Yeah. Oh, that's amazing. So you've seen a lot of a lot of different artists come through your studio to what have been some of the challenges of, you know, trying to bring other musicians into your studio and getting them to produce their best? Will you notice that I didn't say that I still do that. Fair? For me, the biggest challenge of owning a recording studio is to make money doing that. I found that I was going to have to record music that I didn't like with people that I didn't want to be around. That kind of took the fun out of it for me. Yeah, we're dealing with a lot of egos then. Sometimes, I mean, it is the music business, right. That's a part of it. But I think it was more just, I want to be really excited about what I'm working on. And I want to really love the people that I'm working with. Yeah, I did have the experience. I've produced several records. And you asked, How do you get people to perform at their best. And oftentimes, it's really just for singers. I always make people really focus on what they're actually saying. A lot of times you can sing great, have a great voice, but it's not connecting. I'm not. I'm not getting it. And mostly, I've produced record for singer songwriters. So you're trying to tell me something? What is it? Focus on the words that are actually coming out of your mouth? And it's amazing what happens when people do that. I've had people burst into tears singing their own song because they're actually paying attention for once to what they're saying. Wow. It kind of reconnects them with the emotion of writing that song to begin with, or whatever the inspiration was. Yeah, that is incredibly powerful. So let's get back to your songwriting. You mentioned that you you kind of dabbled with that pretty early on, when you were still in, like, middle or high school. How did that progress for you? I feel like I spent the first 30 years of my life writing really, really mediocre songs that I could sing really well. I think I started to get better at it. And then I moved to Nashville. And I was very excited to be in Nashville for about three months. And then I couldn't write a song anymore. I got really in my head. And it became like, an existential crisis. If the next song wasn't the greatest song I ever wrote, then I just couldn't do anything. Oh, wow. Was a minute, the minute I would start writing, I'd start editing. So it was kind of the pressure of Nashville gave you writer's block or fear of fear of writing? It kind of did. Once I left, it became a lot easier for me again. Yeah. But the great thing is being there. I learned where the bar is, so to speak, both for writers and players. I'm not sure I knew where it was before. Like, what level you really need to be operating and what it takes. And the craft involved in both things, both playing and performing, I mean, in writing. So that was really instructive. And then I ended up being in a band for 16 years, with a person that I consider to be one of the best songwriters that I will ever know, named Walt Wilkins, who I heard the first time in Nashville. And the first time I heard one of his songs, I thought, well, I'm either inspired to write a song, or I should go home and quit. Because this is fantastic. And then I ended up being in a band with him for a really long time. And, and that's helpful, too. If you're going to play really good songs every night. You start to get even more of a feel for what does it take to do that? What does a really good song feel like? Yeah, for sure. And at some point, so I'm going to, I'm going to try to bring this to gigging because we're, I think, I think we're almost there. But for original musicians, like my world is covers, even though I'm a classical musician, I'd say I play covers from the 1800s. But, yeah, I wouldn't know how to go about getting a gig for original music. What did that look like for you and the band that you were in? Also, so as you might imagine, that's kind of the hardest part. And even when I was a kid, that was the hardest part. And mostly it would be I'd have a friend who was playing somewhere. And it seemed like a cool place where I would find out, okay, who books that and try to go get a gig there had gigs in New York that were like that. When I moved to Austin, I was lucky enough to actually have a booking agent for a while, who got us into all of those blues clubs that I mentioned and several other places. And that lasted for a bit. Then once you're kind of in the scene. And you know who the people are and who books, various clubs and the clubs you actually want to play. It becomes a little easier then to reach out and say, Hey, I'm looking for a gig. The band I was in. We had a little different situation in that our leader Walt had. He had a bit of notoriety in Texas. We had a booking agent for a little while. It didn't work out very well. But it did do the thing of getting us into certain parts of the scene. Hmm. And after a while, we didn't have to go looking for gigs. Those gigs came looking for us. Emails would just show up. We want you guys to play Yeah. Honestly, for me, personally, I'm back to that place because I was in a band where I didn't have to worry about that for when I want to go play now, I know I have two places in Austin, or near or in or around Austin, that I can email any time and get a gig. That's about it. If I want to branch out from there, I'm going to have to decide where I want to play. Find out, maybe find out from somebody else I know who plays there, who do I need to talk to? Or maybe even, can you introduce me? So that I'm not it's not a total cold call? And see if I can book a show there. Yeah, for sure. And I imagine a lot of that depends on whether or not your music is a fit for those venues? Absolutely. Because every venue has their own preferences. You know, some of them might want more, I don't know, in the traditional covers world versus originals. And then you have those places to that they really make their bread and butter off a cover band. Mm hmm. On the weekend, but then they'll book original music during the week or on off night. Yeah, there's a bit of that that happens too. It's really bookings tough. I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna mince words. And I think even as a booking agent, booking stuff. Most booking agents don't last very long. Because it's a tough gig. Yeah, it's a lot of work. It's a lot of work. So it very much depends on what you want to do. How busy you want to be. house concerts have become a major part of my gig life. And certainly, the people that are in my circle. That's something we all do a lot of. Kind of like the privates that you do, except that it'll be there's, there's actually a whole circuit all over the country of people that do well known house concerts. I have, I've flown to New Hampshire, to Atlanta, all kinds of places to play house concerts where a group of say 50, between 50 to 100, people will be at these. And they all let's say, Pay 20 bucks ahead. It's not at a venue, it's at someone's house. But it's a listening crowd. They are, they are there to shut up and pay attention. It's not a party. And they're, they're really fantastic. And they generally pay pretty well. Can't do. You know, I don't get them all the time. But the ones that I do I really love and that's become a big part of my sort of booking strategy is making sure I have a few of those, along with some club dates, along with whatever shows up. Yeah, so kind of piecing together different types of gigs in order to progress your career forward. Absolutely. That's awesome. So I noticed on the artist mind website, which is your coaching business, is that right? That's correct. The tagline for your website says the only thing that gets in your way, is you. Yeah. Could you tell me more about what you mean by that? Well, I think that that starts with me, because the only thing that's ever gotten in my way is me. Nobody's ever stopped me from doing anything. If we're talking about gigs, the only thing that stops me from booking gigs, if that is something makes me not want to send an email, or make a phone call, or find out what I need to do next. That's the only thing that ever stops me from doing that. Nobody's telling me I can't do it. And I don't think it has anything to do with how good I am. Because I've certainly seen people get gigs, who, in my opinion, maybe aren't fantastic. I don't mean they're, you know, terrible or anything and I want everybody to play and do well, but I don't think it always has anything to do with that. It has to do with Are you willing to do what it takes to get that gig? Sometimes? I'm not. But that's on me. Right. And that works for everything I work with as a coach, I work with small business owners can hear my dog shaking his collar in the back. So I work with small business owners and owning a business is not easy. Musicians are all small business owners, every one of us. We don't always think of ourselves that way. But we are and no matter what business you're in musician, doctor, lawyer, financial advisor, marketer I've worked with and continue to work with people in all of those industries. And there is a common thing that interrupts growth, that makes things difficult. And it's just the person. When I meet a business owner, the only thing that's stopping them in their business from growing or getting where they want to be is, then it's nothing else. It's not the economy, it's not their customers, it's not their product. There's a bunch of terrible products out there that make millions of dollars, it's got nothing to do with the product. It's just the person. So whenever I work with a client, the first thing to do is to really look at how do you get in your way? What are the stories you're telling yourself? I don't know if this is going to be okay with you. But I have another catchphrase that shows up on my website, your brain is an asshole. We'll leave it I'll just put the explicit tag on the Okay, gotta set or you can beat the you know, because your brain tells you all kinds of stuff that's not useful. There's all kinds of noise and story and sometimes really awful stuff going on up there. It's, it's not your friend. It's a lot of noise. And with a little awareness, and a little work and a little training, you can get past that you can have your brain work for you instead of against you. You can find those habits and patterns in the way that you think. And the actions that you take accordingly. And when you become aware of them, you can actually change them. Yeah. Does that make sense? Oh, for me, it totally does. Bill like I, I believe 100%, in what you're saying? You talk a lot about like you reference, I guess, personal development? Yeah, you know. And, you know, that's something that I strongly believe in, I read a lot of personal development books, sometimes I even mentioned them on this podcast, because it is you who gets in your own way 99% of the time. And if you can just figure out what's stopping you from doing what you want to do. Whether that's you're simply pursuing the wrong strategy, or you have these false beliefs about yourself, and yet, what you can accomplish. And I think what you're saying just hits the nail on the head with that. And as you know, it's really hard sometimes to see how you get in your own way. Yes, it's hard to do that. And, and so my primary skill as a coach is being able to help people uncover how they get in their way. I didn't know that this was something I was going to do. If you had asked me in my 20s, are you going to end up being a business and personal coach? First of all, I would have said, What the heck is that? And second of all, I would have said, No, I'm gonna play music, I'm going to write songs and sing them. That's what I'm gonna do. That's all I'm gonna do ever. And I really thought that was all I was going to do, ever. And I think I shared with you I've, I've had a lot of jobs in the music and entertainment business. Because that's what I was going to do no matter what. And then, in the 90s, I kind of stepped further into my own personal development journey, and ended up getting trained to coach people. I didn't know that was a thing you could do as a job. And then about 10 years later, I got hired to coach people, by a company that it was providing coaches and found that I am as passionate about it as I am about playing music. So I thought this is something I should keep doing. Yeah. That's awesome. Cool. Well, we are getting close to the end of our episode here. Yeah. I wonder what are just some quick rapid fire pieces of advice you could give to our gigging musicians. Yeah. So for gigging musicians know that it's not an easy business. So if it feels hard, that's okay. It's gonna feel hard sometimes. But remember why you do it. I always tell people, I don't play music for money. You have to pay me but that's not why I do it. And it took me a long time to get to that because there was a period of time where I really did look at it as this is my job and I do this for money and It became kind of a bummer. It was harder when I can, it doesn't matter if that's my business or not what I'm saying is where I come from about it. It's not the why it's not the reason that I do it. Because if that's the only reason it's really not worth it. Yeah, you know, the waiting around the driving, the waiting, the setting up the sitting around the having to go in the service entrance that the bad food, the just all of it. But that's all for that 20 minutes or 30 minutes or 45 minutes or two hours that you get to spend on stage, doing what you love to do. That's the only reason to put up with any of it. And it's the best reason. The I get all about that. And you can do anything. For sure. I mean, there's so much power to being on stage. Yeah, but there is a lot of work to get to that stage. Awesome. So this has been wonderful bill, how can our listeners connect with you further? Yeah, so you can find me at artistmind.co There really isn't an M, it really is just .co artistmind.co or BillSmallMusic.com. If you just Google Bill Small, my music website will pop up. So feel free to reach out to me through either one of those. Feel free to tune into the subtle art of not yelling on your favorite podcast app after you've listened to the gigging musician and always happy to chat with people about what they're up to and, and what they think's getting in their way. Yeah, for sure. And we can also listen to some of your music online too. Is that right? Absolutely. Yep. Great. Well, thank you so much, Bill. This has been awesome. And to our listeners. Thank you so much for tuning in to another episode of The Gigging Musician Podcast. Always remember you are just one gig away.