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How do musicians make it in NYC?

21 Jan

We see them everywhere: Coming out of dark bars in the wee hours, putting up flyers in the East Village, busking on subway platforms. But how do they really do it? Today we’re talking to real-life New York City musician Thomas Bryan Eaton about finally quitting his day job, the best gigs and what aspiring musicians in the city need to be doing.

((( Listen while you read: When You’re Dancing )))

What was your first memorable show in NYC? Playing at the old Galapagos Art Space. That was probably nine years ago.

Thomas Bryan Eaton plays Zebulon on 2/18.

How should someone looking to book gigs in NYC get going? Don’t get discouraged; just get out there and do it.  You’re going to play shitty gigs in shitty places for no money, but that’s half the fun. There are so many different scenes here; even a ‘smaller scene’ like the old time/bluegrass scene is incredibly diverse and has many pockets.  Go out to the jams, go to other people’s gigs, get to know who plays the kind of music you play. That’s a great way to start getting gigs, and maybe meet your new band!

Have you written any songs about New York? “When the Sun Goes Down” might be the closest.  I think it stemmed from the constant battle between my love and hate for the city — that and the feeling like you should leave something to keep things fresh.

Are you single? Who’s asking? New York City can be a very complicated place for relationships of all varieties.

Where can we see you live? Follow him on Facebook for show dates.

Did you find it harder or easier to break into the NYC music scene than you imagined? I sometimes have felt like it’s incredibly hard, and I’m in the wrong place doing the wrong thing. Other times I felt it’s the exact opposite, and things were just lining up.

Do you keep a day job? I just quit my day job! Which is great.  Though I am still teaching [music] for a large portion of my income, normally I don’t count that as a day job.

How many hours on average do you sleep a night? Average might be about five hours. I do love naps though!

Tell us about a gig you’ll never forget. It was a random Sunday last fall at a bar in my neighborhood. A good crowd came out, and it just happened to be one of those gigs where it really feels that the whole audience is right there with you. That’s one of the reasons I love music so much; it connects people.  This gig, the whole room felt electric! I don’t even think the band, or I, played exceptionally well, it’s just sometimes that je ne sais quoi is there. It’s pretty much what I live for.

What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from another musician? Shortly before I moved here, I was talking with my friend Seth Olinsky from Akron/Family about his move to NYC, and my impending move. He said he thought NYC is not meant for everyone, and within a year or so, people either sink or swim.  It gave me more of an idea of the pace of New York, and helped me get ready for it.


Broadway shows and you

9 Jan

Why go to the theater as a transplant New Yorker? Isn’t that for the olds?

Absolutely not. And here’s why.

I moved to New York City at 25 and made just $30,000 a year, and I still saved for theater tickets. All of a sudden I could hop on the train and be in my seat at a Broadway show in 20 minutes? I was beside myself — and I knew I’d rather spend extra money on experiences than things.

As I write this, IN THE HEIGHTS is closing — a show I was privileged not only to see twice, but also to cover as a freelance writer.

Miranda has said that, as a younger man, he didn’t realize “you could write about the present.” For those who perceive musicals as cheese with melted cheese on top, musicals like In the HeightsRent and Next to Normal are a nontraditional portal into the genre.

As a transplanted local attending a Broadway show, both your dreams and the dreams of the actors are coming true at the exact same moment. After all your months of planning for NYC, there’s an undeniable link between you and those who’ve dreamed about being on that stage since they were five*. You both know just what it’s like to chase down a dream.

Need more tips on snagging theater tips? Read this and learn how to pull some strings.

You moved all the way here to experience something different. Forego a night at the bar every couple months and spend the money to see a show. It’ll feel fantastic.

*In 2008, I bought a $20 standing room ticket to A Chorus Line, and it changed my life. Now there’s a show for new New Yorkers. I highly recommend the documentary about its revival casting, Every Little Step, on Netflix instant. (It comes and goes, but the DVD—if those are still a thing—is cheap on Amazon.)

A weekend in Philly

12 Aug

Where’s your favorite get-out-of-the-city weekend spot?
Answer our poll below!

Sure, Boston and D.C. get a lot of NYC weekender love, but Philly was by far my favorite of the three, highly underrated if you ask me. Here’s where I ate, stayed and hung out. Copy/paste this list in an e-mail to yourself, and bring it when you go!

Travel: Bolt Bus. I’ve written about it before, but the trip is seamless and the bus has free wi-fi and bathrooms. Book your tickets early, as they charge on a sliding scale, but you can easily get there and back for about $30. If you’re traveling with a companion, get in line early — people often aren’t so keen on moving to an aisle seat in the back row so you can sit by your honey.

Sleep: Lodging is typically the most expensive part of weekend bus trips, so remember that credit card points programs often pair with hotels to offer vouchers — check yours to see where you might stay and save. Bearing this in mind, I hit up the Historic Best Western Independence Park Hotel (235 Chestnut St.), right in the center of the action.

The Signer

Eat: A little hard to get to on foot, but Silk City (435 Spring Garden St.) is a fun ’50s diner vibe. Check out Campo’s (214 Market St.) and split an obligatory cheesesteak, and carve out an hour or two (and some room in your tummy) to sample the goods at the lively Reading Terminal Market (51 N. 12th St.).

Reading Terminal Market

Snack: Wine and cheese bar Tria (123 S. 18th St.) is a romantic place to sit outside and enjoy the finer things, while Shane’s Candies‘ (110 Market St.) arcane check-out system is worth suffering — for the chocolate, of course.

Gawk: Make sure your camera has plenty of battery before heading over to the Philadelphia Magic Gardens (1020 South St.). But speaking to friends after we returned, somehow no one I talked to who knew Philadelphia had ever been. What the what!

Classics: Even if you’re not a history person, Independence Hall (520 Chestnut St.), Betsey Ross House (239 Arch St.) and a stop at the Liberty Bell are musts. Take the tours (very affordable), soak up the history, Google the ticket details.

Drink: Nodding Head Pub (1516 Sansom St.) is a locals’ bar with plenty of space and seating. There are way worse things than ending up here for a few drinks after a long walk around the central city. Not a bad plan at all.