School is back in session after fall break, and so is our blog series featuring some of our local area music industry professionals! Today we’d like to introduce you to Brad Warren, originally from Alamo, TN who now currently resides in Nashville. Brad plays the saxophone, guitar, bass, and EWI (that stands for “Electronic Wind Instrument) Brad has been playing music for 30 years of his life, playing 15 of those years as a professional Army musician. His current unit is the 129th Army Band, located right here in Nashville! He shares the stage weekly with some of the world’s finest musicians, so there are plenty of opportunities for you to experience his music here in Nashville.
- 1. Please share a brief overview of your background and education in music.
I attended MTSU and studied music performance for about 3 years. I grew tired of being a broke, unmotivated college student, moved back home for a bit, and enlisted in the Army as a musician shortly thereafter.
- 2. When did you first realize you wanted to be a professional musician, and what steps did you take to achieve that goal?
When I was child. I honestly didn’t know exactly what steps to take and there weren’t many fully professional musicians, so I didn’t really have a mentor to help establish a clear path to becoming a working, professional musician.
- 3. Were you in a school band as a child? If so, what are some experiences you had in band class that helped shape you into a future professional musician?
I started band class in 7th grade at Crockett County Middle School in Alamo, TN. [Is “attention from girls” the right answer? J/k] The most important experience in band classes was learning to read music and also to begin to learn how to actually transcribe.
- 4. Do you perform within a certain genre of music? How has your musical style evolved from the start of your career to now?
For the past 4-5 years, I’ve played a little bit of everything with a large focus, surprisingly for a saxophonist, on 40s-60s country, rockabilly, rock, jump, and jazz music. There are a lot of musicians in Nashville right now who are seriously into those genres. There is a lot of genre-blending going on as evidenced by the current support for Ameripolitan and Roots music. In the 129th Army Band, we cover a lot of ground; marches, symphonic music, chamber music, old and new country, old and new rock, Big Band swing, bebop, standards, etc.
- 5. Share a favorite memory you have from performing.
My favorite, heart-warming, tear-shedding memories come almost exclusively from concert band performances with the 129th Army Band. The impact of some our pieces have on the audience brings me to tears with them! Come to a show! I’ll shake your hand and give you a hug, if you want one.
- 6. Describe your musical influences, past and present.
There’s not enough space on your blog. Extremely abbreviated list: Led Zeppelin, Paul Desmond, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dave Matthews, Victor Wooten, Jeff Coffin, Hank Williams Sr., Webb Pierce, Johnny Horton, Grady Martin, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks.
- 7. What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a professional musician?
Maintaining personal and professional relationships.
- 8. Which venues do you frequent and which is your favorite to perform at?
Acme Feed & Seed, Robert’s Western World, and the Nashville Palace are my frequent haunts. My favorite venue to perform in is Acme Feed & Seed. I love playing for the dinner crowd and watching people clear the tables out of the way to make room for dancing. I love that the Nashville swing dance community supports so much live music!
- 9. What does a typical work week look like for you?
I work full-time for the 129th Army Band and I’m a Realtor, husband, father, and a professional musician, so not every day is the same. Generally: 6am – wakeup/morning routine; 7:30am – kids to school; 8am – administrative work (practice if time allows); 1130 – Lunch/practice/charting/transcribing/real estate phone calls; 1230 – administrative work; 1630 – Real estate client appointments/play with the kids and dog/visit with my wife/chores; 1800 – Dinner (Yay!) and family time; 2000 – Kid’s bedtime/practice/recording/songwriting/real estate client follow-up; 2200 – Lights out. Is that too much detail? I have a steady Sunday night gig at the Whiskey Bent Saloon on lower Broadway from 6-10 pm. Wear your dancing shoes and come out to have a great time! Throughout the week, mostly at night, I may have gigs or recording sessions. Those vary because they are sideman “for-hire” situations.
- 10. How do you keep yourself motivated in your journey to playing music on a professional level?
“If you want to improve and succeed in your life, you need to surround yourself with people who have higher standards than you do.” If your parents are worth their weight in salt, you probably heard something like that the entire time you were growing up. Here’s the thing… IT’S TRUE! Once I intentionally got over my hesitation to put myself out there amongst people who are better musicians than me, I found myself motivated by the people I chose to be around and I grew/am growing immensely as a musician.
- 11. What goals do you have for your music career in the future?
To make music until my last breath.
- 12. What advice do you have for young musicians who are just starting to learn how to play an instrument?
First, see the answer to #10. Second, listen, listen, listen….soak everything up like a sponge and learn how to emulate it. Third, be committed to yourself and your teammates (other musicians). Lastly, long tones.
- 13. Are there any misconceptions you believe that the general public has about career musicians?
We’re all really weird…actually that’s mostly true…Either we’re extremely poor, teachers, hobbyists, or superstars. There seems to be no comprehension that many musicians make a modest, yet decent living by touring and playing music 5-7 days a week. There are also those of us who take the “non-traditional” route of becoming military musicians.
- 14. What insight can you offer to those who are interested in becoming professional musicians?
Keep your chin up, use your brain, and get to work. You’re an entrepreneur in an incredibly rewarding, yet demanding professional. Also, refer to #10 again.
- 15. What are some of your hobbies outside of music?
I have a lovely wife, Elise, and 2 great kids. My hobbies are working on our cars, but I think that’s mainly because I’m “cheap”, and playing video games.
Brad Warren is a fantastic example of how there are many unique paths to becoming a career musician. His journey shows that it doesn’t matter how you get there, what’s important is the work you put in and your determination to achieve your goals. Thank you Brad, both for your advice for budding musicians and for your service to our country!