Every Friday on this blog is “Makin’ it Happen Friday”, where I feature another musician who’s found a way to make a living playing music. I am constantly inspired by others, and hope to pass that inspiration on to you.I first became aware of Cameron Mizell through his writings at Musician Wages.com, a site for working musicians that he co-founded, and one of the sites that was instrumental in getting me started on this blog. If you haven’t checked it out, it’s a wealth of information for the working musician. Poke around and I’ll bet you’ll find ten useful things without even trying!
Cameron is a New York based musician, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer and writer – a true musical renaissance man! He leads his own jazz/funk trio, records and tours with singer-songwriter Lauren Zettler, plays in the 9-piece jazz ensemble Collective Pursuit among others. When he’s not on the road or in the studio he finds time to help other musicians by sharing his thoughts and experiences at the aforementioned Musician Wages.com. He’s also an avid Twitterer, sharing great information and stories from the road.
What I admire about Cameron is his knowledge of all sides of the music business. It’s rare to meet someone who is as musically talented as Cameron while also being so well-versed in the workings of the business end of the equation. This comes from his history of touring, recording, and working on the inside of the business as Head of Production at Verve Records. And what’s more, he’s always willing to share his knowledge with the rest of us! He is a rare breed, indeed!
Read on to hear Cam’s answers to our standard questions.
OWM: How’d you get started in the music biz?
CM: I started playing paying gigs in high school, and worked with some seasoned local pros in St. Louis, and they talked to me about the business of being a performing musician. Later, after college, I moved to NYC to take a shot at being a musician. I had to get a temp job at first to help pay the bills, and I was placed at the Verve Music Group, part of Universal Music Group. I ended up working there for three years and learned a lot more about the actual business side of the industry during that time.
OWM: What 3 things have helped you the most in becoming a working musician?
CM: Versatility, the ability to multitask, and the ability to shut everything out and just do what needs to get done. I rely on a variety of revenue streams to get by, and I have to be able to switch from one kind of gig to the next, whether it’s playing music or not. Some days I’m trying to practice in between trying to book shows or work with clients, but other times I just have to sit down and practice and ignore the rest of the world. It’s not always easy.
OWM: What advice to you have for aspiring musicians?
CM: There are no shortcuts, and very few handouts. First you have to be really good at whatever you do, whether it’s play an instrument or sing, or write songs or arrange. Be the best at whatever you do, and use your strengths to your advantage. Once you’re at a point that you can maintain your skill level, start figuring out the business. Nobody is going to do it for you, and once you figure it out, you can really pave your own way.
Thanks for your straight-shooting answers, Cam!
Here’s a video of Cameron Mizell and his trio performing his original composition “Mississippi Mud Clerk”:
And just for fun, here’s one in a series of mandolin/ukulele covers he recorded with Lauren Zettler: