Biff Watson is a master guitarist & an acclaimed music producer. He has produced #1 albums & singles and is one of the most sought-after & recorded guitarists in Nashville. He has performed with every artist you’ve ever loved or respected, from George Strait to Bob Seger to Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry and Carrie Underwood! He has been a beloved & admired figure in Music City for over 40 years, and he is the founder of Lyricord, a song creation studio where you can get your music heard!
I knew what I wanted to do when I was 7 years old, and started doing it at 11, when I formed The Timekeepers with my brother Jim, who played drums, and two friends from the neighborhood who played guitar and sang. I was Paul McCartney with my broom and hat rack (bass and mic), then I graduated to a Craftsman bass and Kent amp, which had enough inputs for all three guitars.
But that’s not the Road Story, even though Mom drove us all over Pittsylvania County, Virginia in the ’65 Impala, so we could play to our adoring fans at sock-hops, teen centers and talent contests. No, the real road story came the day after I graduated from high school, when I told Mom and Dad I was going to hitch-hike to Nashville, TN. They were stunned, but I was resolute. Dad reminded me that I didn’t have any money but I corrected him – I had gotten one hundred dollars for graduation. That’s when he realized there wasn’t going to be a reasonable conversation. So Mom said she would at least drive me to the interstate, and I packed up my knapsack with my pillow and the clock radio I got as a graduation gift and Mom took me to Roanoke, where, after goodbyes and a tear or two, she left me on the side of the road, and I stuck my thumb out at the first car.
I have only vague memories of how that day unfolded, but I do remember that the couple that had passed me earlier in the BMW with New York plates drove by a while later and stopped the second time. Fate can be so fortunate – they took me all the way to my friend’s apartment, and actually spent the night, much to his and his girlfriend’s dismay.
That’s how I got to Nashville, and I’ve been here doing what I love with the people I love for almost 45 years.
But kids… don’t try this at home. Because, although things have changed, many things remain the same, and nothing replaces the essentials when it comes to being a professional studio musician. I’ll give you my “T”s for studio work. Talent, temperament, tone, time, tuning, and truth. They are all important. A brief description:
Talent – Duh! It’s an obvious one, and everybody has to have it to make it. But it’s nowhere near 100% of the requirement.
Temperament – If you’re not easy to be around you won’t be around long. You’re there to support the project, not star in it.
Tone – Plenty of players have chops, but the ones who can make their instrument really speak in a track have the most to offer.
Time – Is a groove. Don’t get there before everyone else, and don’t be a drag! Practice with a reference (click, loop) even if that’s not how the song is recorded. Listen!
Tuning – Things resonate when they’re in tune, the molecules all get happy and sing together, and everyone is pleased with a sonorous instrument.
Truth – Don’t fool yourself. Be critical of your performance and improve on the things you know need work.
Review the previous 5 “T”s constantly.
It’s a very different world out there now than it was when I was young. Do follow your dream, create, aspire, move mountains and… pursue happiness.Biff Watson
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