Originally from Vermont, musician Jeremy Moses Curtis, is currently working out of Providence, Rhode Island. Curtis was interviewed by staff writer, George V. Nostrand, back in 2015 <excerpt below> in an article on the job/ role of a sideman in a working band. Curtis also played for many years with local musician, Bow Thayer and helped start the Tweed River Festival.
Curtis returns to Vermont this weekend to play Sweet Melisa’s in Montpelier, with his band, The Curtis Mayflower, Saturday, March 25. The band has just released an album. Here is a video from his recent release, “Death Hoax.” The song is “Ghost Town.” Video produced by the band’s drummer, Duncan Arsenault.
From a December 2015 interview in the Rutland Herald
Bassist Jeremy Moses Curtis grew up in Manchester, Vermont. He attended Berklee College of Music and has played with a number of regional and national acts. I caught up with Jeremy to talk about life as a sideman, hoping to shed a little light on the life of those musicians making a living to the left of center stage.
Do you embrace the term “sideman”? What does it mean to you to be a sideman?
“I’m happy to be a sideman. A sideman is someone who can be called upon to show up, know the material and hold their own. It’s important to make sure your gear works, have a reliable vehicle, act professional and be someone you can hang out with for long periods of time in small spaces. I think that goes for any line of work really. Some days are great and some days have issues. To be honest, I’m just happy when I have work lined up with people that I respect and whose company I enjoy.”
What was your last non-music job?
“Man, I have done all sorts of things. I owned a restaurant, bartended, but I would say the one skill that has always been with me is carpentry. It was a great job to have while working my way to playing music exclusively. There is reward in seeing immediate results after say throwing up some walls or trimming out some stairs, but most of all, knowing that I can always pick it up should I need to, is a good card to have in my pocket.”
Do you prefer playing live or working in the recording studio?
“I love both really. Recording can be a real respite from day-to-day life. To focus intently on a piece of art that is constantly morphing the deeper you get into the process is a very special thing to be a part of. Touring is more of the grunt stuff. But that said, being able to travel, meet new people and sharing that relationship with an audience every night is pretty special. The camaraderie built on the road is its own thing. Sharing that experience with a group of musicians night after night forms a bond that is hard to describe.”
Can you talk about some of the challenges inherent with trying to be good at your trade and having to juggle so many different roles within the industry to make that happen?
“Since the industry has changed so much in the last 10 years, musicians have had to assume more of the administrative side of things and that can be very tiresome when all you want to do is practice or write. When you look up from your computer and realize you have spent countless hours trying to book shows, do design work for merch., update social media and websites, contact band members and coordinate schedules, finalize guarantees and such, it can be frustrating.”
Is there any job security being a musician/ sideman?
“There is no security in this line of work other than the security in knowing you love playing music. I think for some there is a misconception about musicians and their income. There is nothing grandiose about it. It’s a hustle to stay busy. But it can be done.”
How do you get gigs? Do you have an agent or is there a service? Are you with a label?
“For me it’s always been word-of-mouth employment. Your reputation and who you meet out on the road has a lot to do with how you stay busy. I think I have been fortunate enough to get hired because of the way I play. I’m by no means a bass acrobat like Victor Wooten or anything, but I think what I do is based in fundamentals…providing comfort in the tunes so the rest of the band can flourish and provide the melody.”
What’s it like to walk on stage with big name stars?
“When people are in the audience and excited to see and hear music, walking on stage is always a treat. It doesn’t matter who I’m with. For me it’s like being at Fenway and walking up from inside to your seats, when you see the grass on the field for the first time…you get that rush.