Playing The Right Notes | The Working Musician In So Cal

We interviewed Lorenzo Grassi where he gave his insights of a working musician in So Cal.

How did you get into music?
S#$! I don’t know! I started playing guitar as a kid.  I did not take it too seriously when I  was young. I just played for fun.

How is life being a working musician?
Life is good being a working musician. It’s a hard job, but it’s a decent life.

Do you work for free or donate your services? 

Working for free is a contradiction. As a musician we support each other supporting other musicians, which is very important. We also try to support the small business that may need a hand. As a working musician, we don’t live off subsides from the government. At the end of the day we all have bills to support our lifestyle. A simple lifestyle, but we need to make money in order to survive.

Would you feel your profession is comparable as a doctor or lawyer?
Listen, some of us are trained professionals. Of course, I do understand a lot of people play music without any formal training… and that’s Ok.  On the other hand, there are individuals that studied for a period of time at a university and get called to a very specific type of work which in essence is the fruit of years of their learning and investment. If you want to compare a person that graduated from a university studying music, let’s take into consideration that individual has to pay a school loan the same as a lawyer.

Close up shot of a man playing guitar

Is digital music and the DJ taking away work or getting you more work?
Taking away work. (Pause) In the 40s, 50s, and 60’s they were no DJ’s... maybe a couple juke boxes, but there was no IPOD, there was no Pandora… Today music is not associated to live playing. It has become a mechanical execution.

So does recorded music take the emotion and energy of a live performance?
Of course! The visual part is absent which is a considerable component contributing to the energy aspect of a live performance.  With live music there is an impact of something that occurs during that space and time within that moment oppose to a song that is played by a MP3 player. A MP3 played by a DJ is the same wherever you go for the fact it’s recorded. Pre recorded music is lacking a uniqueness compared to a live band. When we play a cover or an original, it’s different! Every time we play that cover its not going to be the same because it is only unique to the audience during that present moment which makes the performance that much special.

What bands are you affiliated with?
I play jazz so there is no consequent band I am affiliated with. I am part of a community of musicians. If more than anything, I am affiliated to music in very diverse environments.

What is the best approach when hiring a working musician?
People are unaware; mostly they are more aware of the mechanical execution unlike in the 40’s or in the early 60’s when everything depended on the live execution. That target is not part of the spread that we are in today. I think the consumer feels that we can reproduce music like an mp3 player. Some people have unrealistic expectations for the fact that they are accustom to listening to recorded music. But not everyone looks at it that way, they are few out there that respect you as an artist, but it all really depends.

How are you coping being a musician during the recession? Does it affect you like the rest of the country?
No. I think personally… I am busy practicing doing other S*$%. Work is out there, so it does not have a major influence like other professions. There are jobs for us musicians out there that pay less prior to the recession, yet people are still going to bars and clubs to listen to music.

Any advice to anyone doing this profession?
I really don’t have any advice on that.  Just follow your passion and don’t give up.


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