There’s a certain romance to country music. People all around the world idolize and romanticize Nashville as a place where dreams are made and broken, and there’s a good reason for that; country music’s history is long and interesting, and it’s easy to see how it works its way into people’s souls.
You don’t need to be from the US in order to be a successful country musician. While Americans do constitute the majority of country singers and performers, session musicians and backing instrumentalists can be from anywhere, as long as the soul of Nashville inhabits you. Here’s how to become a country musician and realize your dreams.
Fund yourself first
There’s no point dreaming about ditching everything and moving to Nashville if you don’t have the funding to do so. Unfortunately, a change in career is going to cost you money, and relocating to the world’s country music center is even more costly than simply picking up a guitar.
Happily, there are plenty of ways that you can fund yourself if you want to switch careers. You could use money that you’ve accumulated from working your standard job, for example, or you could look to direct lender loans for that extra cash injection to help you get on the plane and start a new life.
Build a network
In most businesses, it’s not about what you know, but who you know, and that’s even more true in the music industry. If you don’t have the right contacts, then you may find yourself struggling to attract the interest you need to become a country musician, whether it’s as a star or as a backup performer.
In order to construct a network, you’ll need to go to as many country music events as you can. Talk to people there and ask them about themselves. Don’t just hand around demos; build relationships, establish yourself in the scene, and get people’s interest organically before you show them your chops.
Brush up on your songwriting and performance skills
The best of the best really do congregate in Nashville. If you want to be a country star, you’re going to need to match them in terms of skill, and the eventual goal is to exceed them; after all, how else are you going to prove yourself? That’s why it’s important to brush up on your songwriting and performance skills.
To do this, study other country musicians carefully and pay attention to what they’re doing. Learn some of the more advanced techniques for your instrument (and yes, that includes singing), and try to write some songs using those techniques. Think about subject matter that’s close to your heart when you write, because Nashville is all about emotion and heart more than anything else.
Take as many gigs as you can
A successful musician performs exhaustively. Of course, you should try to make sure that you don’t take gigs for free wherever possible; taking gigs for free denigrates the entire profession of music and makes promoters less likely to offer paid gigs in the future, so try to make sure you’re getting paid if you can.
With that said, there might be opportunities for free gigs that genuinely will advance your career. One of the hardest skills to learn as a musician is understanding when someone is trying to take advantage of you versus when they’re actually trying to help you, which is why you should make sure that you…
Hire a dedicated management team
The world of Nashville is hard to navigate, especially if you’re not a business-minded person. That’s why you should try to make sure that you hire dedicated management that can help you get gigs, negotiate contracts, and generally take care of the business side of your new country music career.
Of course, there’s also the chance that your manager will try to take advantage of you, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re taking on the right people. Read reviews of any company you engage with and talk extensively with any potential hires before you make a decision in order to gauge the intent of your new management.
Record your songs
Your songs are just in your head until you get them down “on tape”, as the old heads used to say. Recording your songs is important, because they’ll make up the backbone of your “product” as a country musician. If you’re planning to become a session player or backup performer, then record yourself playing so that singers have an idea of what you can do.
Luckily, recording is easier than it’s ever been thanks to modern technology. You can download DAWs (digital audio workstations) for free these days, and you can get all the plugins and effects you need to make yourself sound great. Just be sure not to drown yourself in too many addons and extras; people in Nashville want to hear you stripped-back and raw, not covered in digital effects.
The number one piece of advice we can offer to you if you’re thinking of becoming a country musician is simply this: don’t give up. There will be times when it looks like things are hopeless, and everyone experiences that; Nashville is a cutthroat and competitive place, and you might think that you’re never going to get anywhere.
However, the important thing is to remember that if you have faith in yourself – if you know you’re talented and worthy of success – then an opportunity will eventually come your way. Keep at it, take feedback to heart (but don’t let it destroy you), and you’ll get your chance before you know it.