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Dear Randy


Music industry and life advice from rock legend and master of his craft, Randy Bachman.

by Randy Bachman

Dear Randy — The first show I played this year felt especially nerve-racking. Usually I have it together, but this one was my first “real” show, performing new songs with my new band. I finally feel like things are happening for me. What are some things you can share to point me in the right direction when preparing for a show to beat those nerves? Garret T. Willie


Garret: First thing is to be prepared. Rehearse till you can do your “thing” in your sleep and on autopilot. Then when you get your vibe and connect with the audience, just go with the flow. If you’re properly prepped, when something goes wrong (and something will), you’ll just keep on rockin’ and not let it phase you. No matter what happens, keep rockin’ and rollin’. Don’t think of any “what ifs,” just dive into the deep end, get out on stage and show the people WHY you’re on stage and WHY they are watching you. There’s nothing to be NERVOUS about.


Dear Randy — You’ve had such a long and an amazing career in music. What keeps you going and what advice would you give for someone like me still plugging along?  Hannah Georgas


Hannah: I knew as a child my gift was music. I started classical violin and traditional fiddle music at the age of five. At 14, I saw Elvis on TV and discovered him, guitars, and rock and roll. That changed my life. I got a guitar, learned to play very well in two years and evolved through a couple of start up bands ending up in one that with a name change was “The Guess Who.” After the GW stint ended after 7 years, I pulled together a bunch of guys and several years later became Bachman-Turner Overdrive/BTO. I was lucky and worked hard enough to have a number one album and single with both groups.

I’ve not drank alcohol since I was 23, never smoked, never done any drugs, never drank coffee and was diligent in keeping a positive, healthy attitude and always honouring my musical gift. Somehow as a child I developed a phonographic memory where after hearing a song or musical bit, I could replicate it on the violin or the guitar. I still practise daily to maintain my chops. I am also amazed at the young kids on YouTube who can play 10 times better than I can. If you love what you’re doing, and I do, it’s never a job. Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating out of work when I get paid to play music. So keep on keepin’ on — It pays off!


Dear Randy — I am a songwriter and one of the most fascinating things to me is how inspiration can come from so many different avenues. Whether it’s a situation that happened, or a new song you hear that blows your mind. I grew up on 90s Britpop, and I feel like you can always hear an element of that in my music, but at the same time there’s usually a new sound or style that gets mixed in. I am wondering if there was one moment in your life when you heard or saw a new artist that made you say, “Woah, I gotta do something like that!” dwi


dwi: I get inspired by all diff kinds of artists of all ages and styles of music. When someone creates or performs something that’s “new” to me, it’s always awe-inspiring. Once you get over someone else’s magical talent that’s so good it makes you want to give up: get down and practise harder to get as good as or better than them. Copy your favourite stuff, remould it to fit your personality and musical style, and make it your own.


Dear Randy — I am a cult survivor and a musician. I exited the doomsday cult I was unknowingly a part of for five years last fall, and I want to tell my story. I have written songs and want to release an album about my experience, partly because pop music was frowned upon in the cult and it feels like a way of reclaiming my identity. At the same time, I’m also afraid of how people will react. I hate the way some people respond when I tell them I was in a cult. It feels important to me that I tell my story, but it’s difficult for me to let go of my fear of how people will respond to me and my family when I do. What should I do? Kenzie Cates

Kenzie: Sorry I can’t help you with your fear of people reacting to what you do. IF you really want to do it, do it. I learned something long ago from a shrink or personal counsellor which might be worth keeping in your heart, mind and soul: “What you think of me is none of my business and makes NO difference to me or what I do!” What you think of me is your business, so keep it to yourself. Also, Rick Nelson said it in the song “Garden Party,” “You can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself.” Do your thing and your audience will find you. I learned long ago that you don’t get to choose your audience, they’ll choose you, and you’ll be very glad when they do.


Dear Randy — When I’m in the process of writing and recording an album or song, I’m usually in love with it. I’ll be obsessed, totally inspired and proud of the work. However, as soon as it’s completed and released in some manner, I lose all interest in it to the point where I’m almost embarrassed or repulsed by it. I’ve creatively moved on! But often this is where the real work begins with promoting and sharing it. I try to trust and remind myself that I was proud of it at one point and that I owe it to myself to give the work its proper due. As someone with such a rich back catalogue, I was curious if you have ever struggled with this and how you deal with it. Or am I just nuts? — Brent Randall, Vanity Mirror


Brent: Yes you are nuts! Seriously, we all lose our “instant song love” after a while. And if the song drifts away, it drifts away. If you don’t like it, no one else will either. I used to write everything down and record it right away. Now I don’t. I just go over it a few times in my head and if it stays, then maybe it’ll stay with someone else when they hear it. If it evaporates, it wasn’t worth remembering. BUT, don’t throw it away. Bits or pieces of it might come in handy later with other non-important bits, and when put together might just surprise you. It’s called co-writing with yourself. Sometimes I find my old scribbler from high school with crazy teenage lyrics, BUT once in a while a few gems are there that I use and use proudly.


Randy Bachman’s Every Guitar Tells a Story is on now at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre in Calgary, AB. Running until October 1, 2023, the temporary exhibition celebrates the sprawling guitar collection of one of Canada’s most iconic rock and roll heroes. For more information visit studiobell.ca