Artists Worked With: Robben Ford, Bobby Bones, and the Raging Idiots, Lamont Dozier, Kyshona Armstrong, Alicia Michilli, Slim Gambill
FEMMUSIC: How did you become involved in music?
RM: I picked up the bass as a high school student and decided to go to college for Music Business and Journalism. After a few internships on the business side, I discovered that I wanted to pursue playing professionally. I began going to jams and networking with other players; this ultimately led to playing in various bands, teaching lessons, and gigging on a regular basis.
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique? How does that change with a band vs solo?
RM: As a songwriter, I tend to write instrumental music based upon grooves and melodic themes. It’s almost easier to write this way with a band, where each instrumentalist is contributing on their respective instrument and the ideas morph in real time. You don’t have to stop and create your own versions of drum parts, etc., and there’s a different level of excitement in the air.
FEMMUSIC: What has been your biggest challenge touring?
RM: Lack of communication. When you’re on the road, your daily schedule is determined by whoever is in charge, (aka the tour manager, the artist you’re with, or the person that speaks up the loudest). When no one assumes this role, it’s very difficult to manage your time and this can lead to frustration and miscommunication. Great tour managers make sure that everyone has a clear idea for the day-to-day, such as when you are leaving a hotel, what time you need to be at the venue for soundcheck, and whether or not you’re provided with a meal (and time to eat it).
FEMMUSIC: How much studio work to you do?
RM: I try to do as much as possible, from playing on demos to full records. Some months can be super busy and I may be in the studio a dozen times. Other months may be slower, particularly during touring season.
FEMMUSIC: How do you separate projects? Personal? Studio? Band Touring?
RM: As a hired gun, I try to find a balance between the work I do for other people (gigs and sessions) and work that I do for myself (writing, teaching, and promoting my own projects). By nature, each artists’ project is separate and requires its own attention. I tend to prioritize gigs and treat each project with the time and respect that it deserves.
I also carve out time for my own projects, specifically for my book, Bass Players To Know: Learning From The Greats, and my column series with No Treble. I’ve also been developing educational material for skype lessons and for online courses with TrueFire. I work extra hard to set aside time every week to work on developing useful content and to practice becoming a better educator. This may mean that I have to write from the back of a tour bus or make notes while sitting at the airport, but it’s worth it when I’m able to accomplish goals that I set for myself.
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?
RM: One of the biggest challenges as a woman in the industry is the fact that most people make decisions based upon image rather than music. This means that you’re often hired based upon your look rather than your playing ability. Sometimes you’re hired specifically because a band wants a “female bass player” to complete an image for the group, artist, or “all female band.” I believe that it’s important to get hired based upon merit and ability; I’d prefer to know that I’m on a gig because my playing and professionalism are what got me there. In order to overcome this, I often don’t take gigs that specifically seek out a “female bass player” because I’d rather play with people who are simply looking for “the right bass player.” This challenge exists whether or not touring is involved.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you change about the music industry?
RM: I would change people’s notion of value. There’s a huge discrepancy between what people are willing to pay a “professional” for their time and what people are willing to pay a professional musician. For example, imagine you’re hiring a plumber to come and fix your toilet. They may show up at your house for one hour, charge you $120, and you pay it without blinking an eye. If you’re a musician getting hired for a four-hour gig, you may get offered $100 (though it’s often less). You’re showing up with your gear, ten-thousand hours of practice and playing experience, and the ability to play all of the music for the gig. You’re entertaining people, creating value for the club by attracting customers and keeping them at the bar, and you’re walking away with very little at the end of the night. The industry has suffered from de-valuation across the board—from streaming, to synch licensing, live performances, and session work—and it’s increasingly difficult to make a living in music.
Posted in Interviews, Special Features Tagged with: Ryan Madora