Guestpost #23: Josh McNorton – Ten things I’ve learned from playing music

Josh McNorton is one of those guys who is always fun to hang out with in any social situation…a connector. And then he has this deep, poetic side that seems almost jarringly different from his gregarious personality. He’s a character, is what I’m saying…and it all works somehow. He’s worked up and down the music business and has been a musician for ages. Right now he is the Talent Coordinator for The Sled Island Music Festival, and curator-in-residence at the Alberta College of Art and Design. Josh’s personal website is here:

  1. Democracy doesn’t work in art. Regardless of how collaborative a band or project may seem, someone has to be the leader for decisions to be made.
  2. Music is experiential; you can think and talk about it ad nauseam but progress isn’t made until you actually play.
  3. Being in a room full of talented friends with one collective goal – to create something — is the greatest activity in the world.
  4. Traveling with the same group of people for weeks, months, even years – often in uncomfortable, unhealthy surroundings – is the ultimate test of tolerance. You either become best friends or brutal enemies…FAST.
  5. Playing music produces an incredible, natural, addictive high. The presence of an audience is a bonus.
  6. Touring is a lot like backpacking. The gruelling travel schedule (typically a new city each day), heavy-lifting, and lack of independence is made up for by the fact that you get to play music every night.
  7. Significant others should never, ever be allowed at rehearsals or on tour — unless they’re in the band or you’re touring on buses.
  8. The drummer is almost always the weirdest/flakiest/craziest member of the band. I think their brain gets unhinged from constant proximity to loud noises. Or maybe it’s because they have the most important and difficult job musically but are always situated at the back of the stage, forced to look at their bandmates’ butts.
  9. Your equipment will inevitably be stolen. Most likely in Montreal. BUY INSURANCE.
  10. There are many variables involved in a great live performance. Some variables you can control — the quality of your songs, how well you play, the sound of your instruments, etc. — and some you can’t — the quality of the venue, sobriety of the sound tech, size and response of the crowd, etc. The key to being a great performer is refining the controllable variables to such a high calibre that they outweigh the uncontrollable, no matter where you’re performing. The same could be said about life.


Filed under tenthingsivelearned, Uncategorized

5 responses to “Guestpost #23: Josh McNorton – Ten things I’ve learned from playing music

  1. Gina

    I didn’t get the part about significant others in rehearsals, and why buses are exceptions…

  2. It’s about personal space and boundaries. Presumably, you have slightly more of those touring on a bus than in a van/car.

  3. Tom McNorton

    Making music so others can sing, hum, laugh or just tap along is the HIGH. Their enjoyment when you are in a groove and cruisin’ through known tunes is better than any miracle-it’s a natural high, one that cannot be replicated. Mixing talent with need is the ultimate job, no career. Keep up the great work. DAD

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