Casey Henry

Casey Henry

This question was posted in the comments yesterday, so I’ll answer it here.

I am relocating to Nashville and can you suggest the best course to follow to land a job with a working band? Are there public audition notices or just by invite only? Publications to run ads for work, or places to play for free for exposure? Also I see a lot of players residing in Hermitage. Any advice on safe and reasonably priced living areas?

You say that this question is not banjo related, so I can only assume you’re a guitar player (or bass or drums or some non-bluegrass instrument…). Since I only run in the bluegrass community I’m not sure my advice would apply to country/rock/christian/classical or any other genre except bluegrass. So I’ll tell you what I did when I moved to town and you can draw your own conclusions from that.

#1. I rented an apartment.

#2. I got a job. Two jobs actually. If you want to make it long-term in this town you absolutely have to be willing to start out working a day job, unless, I guess, you’re independently wealthy. I worked in the kitchen of an awesome restaurant called Cibo. The owners, Sylvia Harrelson Ganier and Greg Fox came to be my good friends. I got this job through a friend of my aunt, who was a friend of Sylvia. I worked there for about a year and a half. The other job, which I still have, was working at a dentist office. My best friend worked there and convinced the dentist to take me on.

#3. I went out a lot. I spend literally five nights a week at the Station Inn, went to the jam every Sunday night, hung out behind the bar, and tried to make it known that I had moved to town. I had a good head start since I already knew lots of people here, but you have to do the same thing, whether or not you already have a crowd to run with.

#4. I went to bluegrass festivals. Both near and far. In my quest to find a job with a band I figured I should probably go to where the bands were.

After months of doing this (maybe six months, I don’t remember exactly) I got a job playing bass with a band. Yes bass. If you’re looking for a job and play more than one instrument, you can’t be picky. As it turned out the band wasn’t a good fit. It only lasted a few weeks and then I was fired via a message on my answering machine, which makes a good story, but was absolutely enraging at the time.

I worked with three more bands for varying lengths of time before starting my own band. That lasted three years, then I was band-less for two years, and then landed the banjo spot with The Dixie Bee-Liners. In my experience it’s all about who you know. Networking is key. And patience. Word of mouth is what it’s all about. Read the Nashville Scene. It takes a long time, generally about five years, before people start remembering that you live here, so be prepared for the long haul.

As far as where to live, the further-out neighborhoods (like Hermitage, and Donnelson, and Goodlettesville) are cheaper. A lot of musicians also live in East Nashville, and Madison. Not on the south side of town, because that’s where the really expensive neighborhoods are.

Good luck and hang in there.


3 Responses to “Nashville”

  1. Liam McWilliams Says:

    Thank you again Casey for your kindness. The step plan is a winner.
    Your advice is excellent and well appreciated. My public instruments are pedal steel and banjo. My fiddle and highlands bagpipes are private work in progress. I look forward to enjoying the journey, surrounding myself with music, and attracting positive results with a clear belief/vision.

    Best regards Liam

  2. martha carlton Says:

    What an interesting saga on your climb into the higher echelons of bluegrass music in Nashville and everywhere else.

    You did not mention teaching. I thought you were doing that all along too.

    Congratulations on your patience and persistence as well as your stellar abilities on the banjo!!!

    • Casey Henry Says:

      Hey Martha!
      Thanks for the comment. I started teaching about a year after I moved here. I didn’t include it because I don’t think that it had any direct effect at all on my getting a job with a band, but it is certainly a major portion of my income!


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