A LESSON FROM STEVE MILLER
I had the pleasure of seeing my old friend Steve Miller perform last night. I took my friend Jennie (another old friend of Steve’s) and we arrived early to watch the sound check. Maybe it’s all the time I’ve spent working shows over the years, but I really enjoy sound check. The performers are loose, checking out their place in a different venue from the night before; the guitar techs, sound and lighting crew are all gearing up for the show.
In Steve’s band, the stage comes to life slowly. Gordy the drummer and Kenny the bass player start, Jacob and Joseph bring in rhythm guitar and keys. They run through some different sounds for a variety of songs and then start vocals. Sonny Charles brings in his smooth voice to round out the first part of soundcheck.
Finally, Steve comes out, happy and joking with the band; looking decades younger than his 67 years. He picks up the first of many guitars, nods to Gordy and the band starts in. The progression through a dozen or so of his songs goes quickly with adjustments here and there while the band warms to the task at hand. They're having a great time.
About 45 minutes in Steve tells the band he wants to work on some of his own stuff and they should go for dinner and get ready for the show. What transpired next was an illustration of what it takes to be really great.
Steve has had a guitar in his hands since the age of 5, maybe earlier. He learned at the knee of Les Paul. He’s been performing longer than I’ve been alive. But for the next 45 minutes he worked on his sound.
Sitting in the empty hall, I found myself inspired again by Steve’s never ending drive to improve. I’ve worked with performers who phone in their part, others who are happy to show up and do a good show; here’s a guy who gets up every morning dedicated to playing a great show every night.
In business there are all kinds of ideas on continuous improvement, lots of buzzwords that over time start sounding the same, at least to me. I’ve read the books, listened to the seminars. But really, what it gets down to is that willingness to sit on the floor and check out every combination of guitar, pedal, pickup and effects to get that perfect sound.
I’ve learned a lot working with Steve and last night was another lesson. Have fun, work hard and never ever stop trying to do your best. As we at iSheetMusic work our way towards release (the clock is now ticking, we’ll announce the date soon) and beyond, I intend to take that lesson to heart.