F is for Free­lance

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO - Mitch Dal­ton is one of Lon­don’s busiest and most sought-af­ter ses­sion mu­si­cians. His latest al­bum, Mitch Dal­ton & The Stu­dio Kings is out now. For more info go to: www.mitch­dal­ton.co.uk

It has been noted by many a wiser mind than mine that Homo sapi­ens is a crea­ture of habit. In the main, the av­er­age sen­tient be­ing ap­pears to find com­fort and so­lace in the se­cu­rity of a de­fined rou­tine. It might be only the em­ploy­ment of the same num­bers when pur­chas­ing the weekly lottery ticket. The or­der and cer­tainty of a reg­u­lar job. The week­end shop. Or read­ing The Daily Mail on the weekday com­muter run. Or a news­pa­per. The crossword. The in­evitabil­ity of yet another ridicu­lous home de­feat at White Hart Lane. All this and more helps to cre­ate the il­lu­sion of per­ma­nence and con­ti­nu­ity in a wicked world, which in re­al­ity has the capri­cious ca­pac­ity to cause up­heaval and chaos on a whim.

In this re­spect, the life of a self em­ployed mu­si­cian is no dif­fer­ent to that of any other in­di­vid­ual in a free­lance pro­fes­sion. And, if you’re a big fan of cer­tainty, well maybe it’s not for you. In a nut­shell, un­less you find your­self tem­po­rary shel­ter from the stress storm in a West End show, a lengthy tour or a per­ma­nent teach­ing po­si­tion, you sim­ply have no idea of what or who is go­ing to hap­pen next. If any­thing.

The phone may ring. Or it may not. Col­leagues and artists, con­trac­tors and com­pa­nies, stu­dios and con­cert halls drift in and out of fo­cus in a kalei­do­scopic, dream-like state. You may wres­tle with the di­ary in a des­per­ate at­tempt to force clash­ing dates to fit like the ugly sis­ters’ shoes. Or you may gaze at a week-to-view page that is as pure as the driven snow but with a tenth of the charm. You may work for days or years on end with a team of hand-picked mu­si­cians – and then you may not work with them again. Ever. It hap­pens.

In the end, you, your fin­ger­nails and your duo­de­nal ul­cer learn to cope with it. With luck and a fair wind, you stum­ble upon a nu­cleus of kind souls who find your mu­si­cal con­tri­bu­tion ac­cept­able, use­ful and to their taste and are pre­pared to tol­er­ate you hang­ing around their projects. Some­times they even pay you. Even­tu­ally, you dis­cover that there is a suf­fi­ciency of these sainted in­di­vid­u­als. Enough, in fact, to pro­vide you with the means to eat on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, most weeks at least. And in essence, that’s about all you can hope for. It’s called a ca­reer. And then, some of these in­con­sid­er­ate in­grates have the temer­ity to die. Or worse still, to re­tire. Or start to use their 21-yearold girl­friend in­stead of you. Or a sam­pler. Or a girl­friend who owns a sam­pler. And you soldier on, man­fully. Well, there’s no al­ter­na­tive, is there? I mean, who’d want to leave showbiz?

All of which leads me to this month’s Star Tale Of The Un­ex­pected. In the midst of feed­ing the cof­fee and pour­ing the cat one av­er­age morn­ing, the phone rang hope­fully. It was Keith Mans­field. The king of TV theme tunes him­self (think Grand­stand, The Big Match,Wim­ble­don Ten­nis and a list of cred­its as long as an NHS wait­ing list). I last worked with Keith about 15 years ago. He is semi-re­tired these days but com­posers and ar­rangers like him never quit. They merely check their roy­alty state­ments. “How would you like to come down to Sus­sex and play on an al­bum next week?”

“Sure. De­lighted. Who is the artist?” “Salena Jones.” A lady who I last saw a mere 25 years ago at the air­port af­ter our re­turn from a three-week tour of Ja­pan. And a great jazz singer. “Well. We’re mar­ried now, as you prob­a­bly know. So I’ve writ­ten all the charts. See you next week!”

And that, ladies and gen­tle­men, is liv­ing proof of the old adage first coined by a Mr C Berry of Mem­phis, Ten­nessee.“It just goes to show – you never can tell.” By the way. I went to Sus­sex. The sun shone all day. The tunes were fab. The ar­range­ments were su­per slick. The food was Delia-es­que. I had a ball.

Wot? Give up showbiz?

Our hero pon­ders the joys and fears of ses­sion work; and proves that good con­tacts are vi­tal...

In the main, the av­er­age sen­tient be­ing ap­pears to find com­fort and so­lace in the se­cu­rity of a de­fined rou­tine.

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