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Mr. Big World Tour: Backstage Pass

We sat down with Paul Gilbert, Mr. Big's guitarist, to discuss their recent world tour. Paul Gilbert offers Rock Guitar lessons on ArtistWorks. Students have access to hundreds of online lessons, thousands of Video Exchanges in the VE Library, and the opportunity to send practice videos to Paul Gilbert for personal feedback. This conversation has been edited for clarity.

Hi Paul, thank you for taking the time to chat with me today about Mr. Big's World Tour. What was the lead up to the tour like? 

I feel awful for our management team, because sometimes getting all of us together can feel like herding cats. All of us work on other projects; for example, I teach online at ArtistWorks, and play with my other band, Racer X. But we did an album last year, and we decided to go on an extensive tour to promote it. We really just decided to commit time to Mr. Big and our fans. 

What was the most challenging part of preparing for the tour?

Whenever you go on a big tour, there is a ton of rehearsal. The good thing is, that once you get it all down, it's easy. I like to say that it's as hard to prepare for one performance as it is to prepare for 20- it's all in the rehearsals and preparing the performance. It was also generally harder this time than when we were all younger, many of us have families. I have a three-year-old son, and it's not easy to be away from him- we made the decision to just do it all at once with minimal breaks. 

I can understand that. This truly was a world tour, I know you were in Europe and Asia, where else did Mr. Big go?

Now, it's really all a blur. We spent a month in the US, went throughout Asia, Europe, and South America. Touring is really exhausting, especially when we were in South America. 

What made South America different?

Unlike other parts of the globe, it really doesn't make sense to travel by bus there. We were flying to every city and destination, which takes a lot of time. We would end a show at midnight, go to our hotels, and have to be in the lobby to head for the airport at 4:00 am. We were traveling with all our gear, so check in for flights weren't easy. 

Sounds really rough!

That's the thing with touring though. If things are going well, you forget all about it. What really stands out are the things that go wrong. What people don't realize about touring is that there is definitely an "unglamorous" side of the job. Lugging all your gear around the globe is a part of that. 

How did you make the best of all that airport time? 

I would just lay on the cold, hard floor. I was just so physically and mentally exhausted. I would use any of the free time I had by logging into ArtistWorks. I would watch student practice videos, record my responses, and edit my video responses. I do a lot of the recording in hotel rooms or backstage at shows, but I edit from the airport. 

Let's talk about the shows themselves, what is it like to bring the sound of the guitar to Mr. Big?

I love bringing the power of the guitar, and to have to have control over the music. I'm fortunate that Mr. Big has had success, but I can't take all the credit for that. My power is over the guitar and the performance, and I bring all I can to that. 

What do you think makes a guitarist a good performer? 

There are so many deeply talented musicians. I hear them, and I wonder how they're not a household name. I've learned that being a guitarist, or a musician, isn't the same as being a performer. You have to bring your personality and create an experience for the crowd. 

How had the performer experience changed for you through the years?

When I was young, touring to me was all about the glamour you'd imagine- I expected to encounter beautiful women, ride around the world on a tour bus, and be a class "rock star". It's so different now, I'm just focused on the music, not the lifestyle. I've formed a real love for improvisation on guitar. 

What do you love about improvising on guitar?

It's like making art. I'm lucky to be in a group that gives me the opportunity to do that. After ten years of improvising, I feel like my art is getting deeper and deeper. It's just become a form of expression for me, and other things I used to want from touring are just distractions. 

What were those things you used to want from touring?

I craved the "drug" of applaud and fan faire on stage. I don't need that rush anymore. I just want to connect with my guitar, my bandmates, and the audience. I want to create a moment. 

How do you think touring affected your online students at ArtistWorks, did they know you were touring?

It felt like that came on the journey with me! They saw backstage, seeing Video Exchanges from me from tour buses, venues, and hotels. My ArtistWorks teaching never goes "on hold", my students come with me, no matter what I'm doing. 

Do you like talking about your music experiences with your students?

On ArtistWorks, I make sure it's all about them. I focus on them and their playing. I don't spend my time discussing myself. I'm trying to help them learn, and often find I learn a lot in the process. 

What is the most important thing you want people to know about your teaching style? 

Everything I say is a suggestion. There is no one "right" way to play the guitar. If you're strumming, and you're creating a sound you like, own it. I'm just trying to open doors and give my students options. Most importantly, I want to help students find their own sound

Read more about Guitar at ArtistWorks:

How to Play Guitar: The First Five Things You Need to Know

Student Spotlight: Graham and His Cigar Box Guitars

Mastering Guitar Licks and Phrases




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