Fame! Stardom! Celebrity! Crazy money! Mansions! Summer vacation homes! Groupies! Roadies! VIP access! Lucrative endorsements! An entourage of bootlickers and ass kissers! Your own reality show! If you're a background musician, none of this and more can be yours. Fortunately, I don't need any of this. Scratch that. I wouldn't mind extra cash. Groupies are creepy. My brother had to deal with groupies when he was a performer at 6 Flags, and that weirdness would only be magnified if I were to gain a certain amount of fame. So, no groupies, but a girlfriend sure would be nice.
I'll have to admit that I'd like some extra money, but I don't need the rest. I am perfectly content to sit in the corner at a reception or a restaurant, playing and singing my favorite music. To many (not all) of today's stars, music appears to be a means to an end…usually money and fame. Of course I like to be paid for my time, and I deserve it, but my main reward is the simple act of making music.
My fondness for playing background music probably has a lot to do with my personality: introverted, shy, and solitary. More of my personality and oddball humor comes out when I'm with close friends or family, but I avoid large groups. Parties? Forget it. Unless I'm the hired musician, I don't go to parties. On the rare occasion that I'm convinced to attend a party, I usually find a nice corner and try to blend in with the furniture. I'm always the first to leave.
Sometimes I joke about a background music job as a musical wallpaper gig, or an MTBI gig (music to be ignored). The truth is that I really enjoy playing background music. One of my main goals in life is to make the space around me a more pleasant place to be. It's too overwhelming to think about changing the world, but when I play or sing, I can change the atmosphere of a room.
Imagine you are sitting in the corner of a room with people milling about, chatting, and checking out the buffet table. You tune your guitar, strike a chord, and start playing. The mood instantly changes. Your music intermingles with the conversations, calming the guests and lowering their voices. Someone stops to listen, because you're playing a favorite song that triggers a happy memory. A child dances. When your time is up, you pack up your gear, collect your check, and go home. In the meantime, you've made your little piece of the world just a little better simply by sitting in the corner and offering up your music.
- Tom Godfrey
- Atlanta, GA, United States
- When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.