This feature began over a year ago. The seed was started many years ago when I met Heather Baker. She’d had a striking song in a film called Holy Ghost People. I ended up meeting her when she toured with Bonnie McKee playing both guitar and keys.
What is a Hired Gun? A Hired Gun, for the purpose of this feature, is a musician who tours with other artists but may not be involved in the album that spurred the tour. They have their own music and may be studio musicians as well. This feature made a specific point of not asking for background vocalists. I think their story was given light in the film 50 Feet From Stardom.
As with our prior features on touring managers & women in studio production this feature asks broad questions. This feature is a continuing and growing piece and we welcome any recommendations for other artists who may fit into it. I also have too long a list of people to thank for their help and recommendations.
Are you a musician who is skilled and wants to travel? Can you adapt to new music easily? Do you want to be on stage but not under the spotlight of the lead? Then being a Hired Gun may be the life for you.
Today that someone is Drew Citron. Citron has been a touring band member of Frankie Rose, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Public Practice. She formed her own band Beverly in 2013. Now she releases her own solo record called Free Now. The latest single is the title track “Free Now.”
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making Free Now ?
DC: Not getting to tour or play shows with my awesome new band.
FEMMUSIC: You recently released “Kiss Me.” Tell me about how the song developed.
DC: “Kiss Me” was an excuse for me to let the power chords fly, I love the guitars on it! It’s a song about keeping your old love feeling new.
FEMMUSIC: I understand you worked with John Agnello on “Kiss Me.” What made you decide to work with him? What did he bring to the project?
DC: I met John through a friend who manages him. We got sushi and he was not only the coolest producer I know (his resume is insane), he also turned out to be one of the nicest and most fun dudes to hang out with. Our vibe was stellar in the studio, I can’t recommend him more highly. His approach is old school, his guitar tones are flawless crunchy gold.
FEMMUSIC: Although you worked with a number of other musicians on the album, a large portion has been engineered, produced and performed by you. What were your goals for the album and what motivated you to take the lions share?
DC: I just am kind of a control freak I guess. I’ve been working as a front of house engineer at venues for years now, and I sort of took the reins this time because I’m just much more knowledgeable about the craft at this point. And it’s good to be a control freak about your art.
FEMMUSIC: You’ve played with a number of other bands. Tell me about your own. Where did you meet Nico Hedley and Laura Catalano? What do they bring to your own projects?
DC: Nico was my friendly and adorable coffee guy when I lived in Williamsburg. That’s how we met. Laura was in a really rad band called Weedhounds, and I asked her if she wanted to sing with me after one of their shows at Shea Stadium. She’s amazing at playing guitar while maintaining perfect pitch. They are indispensable to my ability to play music. Nico is one of my favorite people to jam with and mess around in the studio with as well – he has his own solo project, I highly recommend checking him out!
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about working with Park the Van. You’ve worked with other labels. Why did you want to release your solo album with them?
DC: PTV was right place right time. I mixed a Broncho show at Elsewhere – one of my favorite nights doing sound actually – and they are released by Park the Van. That’s how I connected with Chris, the label head. He just was so enthusiastic about what I’m doing, and he was a Beverly fan as well. We really bond over our love of Grandaddy. It’s a wonderful label, with a lot of heart and a family-run ethos.
FEMMUSIC: What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?
DC: That’s an impossible question but I’ll say “Shooting Star” by Elliott Smith. Big hook, big feeling, big words, big sounds. I like when bedroom sad guys go Abbey Road with it. That’s where I’m trying to go.
FEMMUSIC: What challenges, if any, have you faced as a woman in the music industry? And how did you overcome them?
DC: It’s changed a lot since I started touring a decade ago. It used to be much more intense to load into a venue, you kind of never knew what you were going to get. If some idiot was going to try to tell you how to do your job. It’s like that sometimes when I run sound too, dudes have asked me if I know how to use the mixing board. I usually chock it up to insecurity on their part, and move on. I think it’s really important for women to support each other in this world in general and particularly in the arts. I really default to be more inclusive and generous with women and underrepresented folks when I’m working at a venue.
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with? Why?
DC: I’m obsessed with Bill Ryder Jones right now. Tons of femme-lead stuff, Hannah Cohen, Alena Spanger, Men i Trust, TOPS, I like Phoebe Bridgers.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
She has a new project with Kristen Gleeson-Prata, Hayley Jane Batt and Ginger Pooley called Total Brutal. FEMMUSIC is delighted to bring you their video “Willow.” More music will be coming soon. For info visit https://totalbrutalmusic.com/
Artists worked with: BORNS, Trixie Mattel, Mike Taylor, Wilder Woods, Emma White, Tigertown, Morgxn, Bay Ledges, Mario Jose, Kenton Chen, LPX, Fox Wilde
How did you become involved in music?
My dad took me to see the legendary fusion drummer Billy Cobham when I was 10. I immediately started lessons. I’m not sure how he had the foresight to do so, and I wonder where I’d be today if he hadn’t.
Can you describe your songwriting technique?
How does that change with a band vs. solo? I’ve done minimal songwriting, and only in a band. It’s proven very important to me to be very comfortable with the people I’m writing with and to respect everyone’s individual strengths. I hope to do more because it’s a super rewarding experience
What has been your biggest challenge touring?
My biggest challenge regarding touring is the dichotomy of being on tour and being home. When I’m on tour I feel like my best self and I feel like I have so much purpose. A small but important group of people, not to mention all the fans, are relying on me and trusting me with a big and important job. While I’m on tour, the small world in which we exist seems like the whole world to me.
I have a fantastic and supportive husband and wonderful home life in the wonderful city of LA, so I’m always so happy to come home when tour is over. There is a week or so of honeymoon-like guilt-less relaxing and rediscovery of all things home, and then soon enough I start to worry about where the next job and paycheck are coming from. I dislike the feeling of needing to leave town in order to feel like a productive member of society. Eventually Los Angeles realizes I’m back and available, and I re-discover my purpose and how to be my best self as a whole human, not just a touring drummer. Overall I’ve found that the process of re-integrating into non-tour life takes a bit of time for me.
How much studio work do you do?
I do way more live work than studio work, but I greatly enjoy it. Being in the studio appeals to my type-A and slightly perfectionist personality. I love the process of getting that money take, and how a record can be a timestamp of a very special moment in time. I also love the feeling of having had an important role in a piece of art that can be enjoyed forever.
How do you separate projects? Personal? Studio? Band touring?
I try to remember that I am an artist. I can do many different things, but what all those things have in common is me and my drums. If I can be confident in who I am and what I love to do, I can compartmentalize the different specific jobs I give my time and energy to, and at the end of the day take comfort in the fact that it’s all really me.
What challenges, if any, have you faced as a woman in the music industry? How did you overcome them? Are those challenges increased or decreased when touring?
I’ve been underestimated, taken advantage of, and have had to work harder to prove myself. We are constantly dealing with these challenges, but the one thing I have control of is my work ethic. I can’t control what other people expect or don’t expect from me, but I can control the effort I put in and the good work I do. This kind of work is what gives my career longevity. I want to work with the people who see me for who I am and the way I play. Everyone else doesn’t deserve my attention. As for whether those challenges increase or decrease when touring, I think it depends on who I’m touring with. If the artist or band I’m touring with hired me for me and because I was the best person for the job, not for my body, then there should be very few (if any) challenges related to my gender. However much respect the artist has for their band and crew, everyone else involved follows suit. It starts from the top.
What one thing would you change about the music industry?
I wish there was more support for musicians on all fronts. The reality of our jobs is that work comes and goes. There’s no retirement plan for hired guns, so when we have work, we need to be treated well and paid well. Benefits and 401ks should be commonplace. When we play cover, restaurant or wedding gigs, we need to be treated with respect instead of like the help. Musicians should never be something to skimp on. There are places in the world where musicians are paid a salary by the government to be full-time musicians. Though this may seem small, there are places in the world where specified curb-side reserved-for-musicians parking spots exist. Furthermore, on a personal level, and because of all of the above, mental health is a very common issue in the music industry. I wish there was more support and awareness.
Artists Worked With: Cyndi Lauper, Hank Von Hell, Linda Perry, Corey Feldman, John Early, Shiragirl, Hunter Valentine, Tim Armstrong, Jane Holiday, Derek Day, Jennie Vee
FEMMUSIC: How did you become involved in music?
LB: My dad was a drummer and my mom was a music lover, so I grew up with music around me at all times. I naturally gravitated towards any instrument around me, but I specifically picked up the bass when I was 12 years old. My dad wanted to try out his new home studio setup so he asked me to play “So Lonely” by The Police on his bass while he played the drums and recorded it. Essentially, I haven’t put the bass down since then! I learned every CD in my house and beyond, which is how I taught myself to play. My dad actually passed away in 2011, and I’m proud to carry on his legacy by touring the world playing music I love.
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique? How does that change with a band vs solo?:
LB: When it comes to songwriting, my strengths lie more in collaboration! I love bouncing ideas off of my co-writers and brainstorming to create something meaningful. Alone, my process is slow, and I tend to feel overwhelmed by all the possible options. When I work with even just one other person, those options are beautifully narrowed down to what we agree upon!
FEMMUSIC: What has been your biggest challenge touring?
LB: I absolutely adore being on the road, it’s my favorite place to be. However, my biggest challenge is the “post tour blues.” It can be difficult to drastically switch routines. Going from “tour life” to “home life” takes a toll on your mental health, and I’m certainly still navigating that balance. Luckily I have a community of musicians around me and they all deal with the same challenges, so that support can be vital when I need a reminder that those feelings are common! I’m also happy to be that support for any fellow road warriors who need it.
FEMMUSIC: How much studio work to you do?
LB: Tons! I used to only do studio work for the musicians for whom I also play live, but lately I’ve additionally been working on production and writing for other artists with my co-writer, Jake Bonham.
FEMMUSIC: How do you separate projects? Personal? Studio? Band Touring?
LB: It’s all about prioritization! I take my live performances with bands very seriously, and I play live a LOT. So, depending on which show or tour is next, I’m practicing for that first and foremost. As for separating projects, I have a huge file system that contains every chart for every band I’ve played for in the past 5 years. If and when they call me back, I can pull out their song charts rather than restarting from scratch.
FEMMUSIC: What challenges, if any, have you faced as a woman in the music industry? And how did you overcome them? Are those challenges increased or decreased when touring?
LB: I’m not always taken seriously at first. People tend to assume I was given a gig because of the way I look rather than the way I play, and unfortunately some men have gone out of their way to express that. Luckily on tour I’m at least able to prove them wrong with stellar performances and a professional demeanor. I don’t feel I alone can overcome the challenges we face as women in ANY industry, but I consistently recommend my female-identifying friends for gigs to build a bigger professional woman-identified presence in touring bands. I feel fortunate to have only worked with bands and crew– male and female–who show me nothing but respect.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you change about the music industry?
LB: A lot of industry networking jams and events focus on the “big name” hired guns. They’ll have the same 10 musicians on rotation constantly. Of course it’s fantastic to watch them and to be inspired by them, but I’d love to see a jam or event that highlights the lesser-known musicians! There are so many talented people, especially in Los Angeles, and I think more should be given a platform occasionally.