Louis Middleton ’10 performs and records with Zander Bleck. In this post he answers some questions about what life after Berklee really is like.
Playing with a major label recording artist is a big deal, can you tell me more about how you landed that gig?
It’s interesting how things work out. Originally I was leaving Berklee to go into the “real world” and experience the industry outside of a school environment. I came across a post on Berklee’s Job Network auditioning musicians for a major label artist whose influences were U2, Duran Duran, Queen, and Lady Gaga. That combination of artists and bands seemed interesting and I’ve never been one to turn down an audition, regardless of what it was asking of me. I figured it was worth a shot. I ended up speaking with management who set up an audition slot with me in New York at Smash Studios. Just as this was set up, I ended up landing another audition with a company out of NYC called “The Ride”. I auditioned and was given the part, “Keytar Player”. That story in itself is another trip, but I digress. After that gig ended as the cast and direction of the attraction was altered, I ended up contacting management for Zander Bleck. A few days later I was told to send over a Youtube video audition as the artist was currently in Europe with the producer (Redone) working on the album. After quickly putting together a four minute video in my bedroom of me playing some synth and creating some beats in Garageband, I was contacted and told they loved the video and wanted me to Skype with management and the artist. After speaking with Zander and meeting in person when he was back in New York, the rest is history. I’ve been playing keyboards and doing backing vocals with him over a year now.
In your last post, you mentioned that you’re getting ready to go on tour. What are you doing to prepare for life on the road?
I had been on the road before with an independent artist and had learned a lot from that. Also, being that I live in Philadelphia and the band rehearses out of NYC, I’m always on the road anyways, so I’ve learned to cut down on what I bring with me. I used to carry a large piece of luggage and a full backpack with me. This past tour with David Cook, I was able to pack everything into a large backpack for the entire tour. Only the necessities are needed, but you always want to be prepared for the worst as well. On another note, mentally it doesn’t hit me that I’m going on the road, until the night before usually, but I try to make sure when I leave home I’m in a good place. I feel if I start out that way, it will always be beneficial to me in the long run. The past tour with David Cook was about two weeks long, but the next tour may be longer and have a more aggressive schedule. I really love being on the road, but also love being in my hometown. Always staying optimistic, and being that the band really gets along well, it makes things a whole lot easier for us on the road as a team.
What was the most valuable aspect of your Berklee education?
It’s very difficult to sum it all up when I’m asked what my most valuable aspect of Berklee was. Attempting to give you a shorter answer, I’d have to say that Berklee was an amazing environment to not only hone my skills as a musician, but to make me grow as an adult. There were a lot of life lessons learned there. I feel like I’m in one of the most amazing and fortunate situations one could ask for. This is my dream job. A few of my professors really stand out to me, and I still think about them often as positive mentors, and really pointing me in a path that helped sculpt who I am today and what I do. Eddie McGrath, Livingston Taylor, and Jon Aldrich all had a huge influence on helping me figure out some very serious decisions while in college. I certainly owe it to them to say they were probably a few of my most valuable aspects.
What advice would you give to a first semester student hoping to pursue the same career path as you?
Given the way things have worked out for me in the past and present, and I could have never actually planned to be a part of the band I’m in, I’d just say stick with your instincts and don’t be afraid to try new things, take risks, and be persistent. My family has always called me “Lucky Louie”. My grandmother says luck, talent, and persistence all will be a huge factor in this industry. I’d say that goes for any industry. A very wise man once said to me, it’s all about the journey. It isn’t about where you are currently and it’s not about what happened in the past, but as a whole. It’s about the journey and you should enjoy every minute of it; never take it for granted.
How did your Berklee experience shape your view of the music industry? Was it spot on or did you need to shift?
Berklee gave me a foundation and a starting point for the music industry. Although I was gigging here and there before being at Berklee, it wasn’t until I got there and stuck around that I realized I had to be the best, and make myself stick out one way or another. This is a cutthroat industry, and although fun, you have to crawl your way through the cracks in order to really see the light. As soon as I got my foot in the door, it seemed as though things just kept getting better and they still do. Berklee is not the “real world” per say, but it was for me, one of the best starting points I could have ever been involved with. To this day, I tell people I don’t regret going to Berklee. I’d recommend anybody who’s interested in getting a “real world” experience, and amazing network of individuals, to attend at least one Berklee class, take a tour of the school, or just pick a student’s brain. Berklee was one thing, “The Ride” was another, and being a part of the Zander Bleck band is another beast in itself. They are all different shapes, but one way or another they all fit together like a puzzle. We are all different and all have different views of the industry and how we get to where we want to be, but that’s how you learn. You saturate yourself in a place where everybody has a similar interest as you, Berklee being music, and you learn a lot from that saturation.
Can you touch on the importance of your networking, skill and talent?
I think I sort of touched on that earlier in this post, but I will reiterate. Networking, skill, and talent are all VERY important in the process of being a part of the music industry. Luck, talent, and persistence is very similar to that combination. All of these pieces of the puzzle will help determine where you end up as an individual. It may not be where you expected, but it seems if you really are hungry for it, it will work out one way or another. Jon Aldrich, my songwriting and jingle writing professor at Berklee, explained to me the importance of looking at what we do as a journey. You have point A and point B. How you get to point B from point A will differ from person to person, but it’s important that you always stay productive. Some people go to college, some go straight from high school, and some get noticed by an A&R or record executive. It doesn’t matter how you get there, but as long as you’re talented, have a skill to offer, and have a huge network to work with, chances are you’ll find yourself in a pretty good place at point B on your journey. It’s important to keep at it, keep yourself relevant, and stay in the loop. To this day, I still practice heavily when it comes to networking and I always will.