Today we’re visiting with second generation session musician and ACM Guitar Player of the Year Derek Wells. He didn’t even pick up a guitar until late in high school, but once his interest in guitar playing really ignited, he applied himself in a really diligent way. While he was still waiting tables and hustling to get work as a musician, Derek went to Walmart once a week and bought two CDs. Every week. He’d buy one country record and one non-country record. Then he’d go home and chart those albums front to back and learn to play them. It left me thinking about how at a certain point in your musical education, you have to teach yourself in order to go to the next level. And that makes me wanna ask you (and myself): what’s your “Weekly Walmart trip”? What structure are you putting on yourself to get better at whatever it is that you’re passionate about? Because in my experience we don’t just get better accidentally — we get better because we take certain intentional steps.
Derek spent five years on the road playing for Josh Turner, and then eventually decided he wanted to make the move to being a full-time session musician. You’ll notice a diligence every step of the way as Derek talks about his different career moves. He’s actively taking steps to ready himself for whatever his next goal is. He’s systematic. This is kind of an unusual characteristic for a musician, but I think you’ll see how it uniquely sets Derek up find work, and keep it, and ultimately to be one of the most sought-after session guys in town.
He’ll also treat you to the best Dolly Parton impersonator story you’ve ever heard, and he’ll tell us the last time he was nervous performing on national TV (and why everyone wore long sleeves on the David Letterman Show.)
His answer to “What does it mean to live This Nashville Life?” “This Nashville Life is the community, for better or worse. It’s the connectedness of everyone. It’s that everyone is a few degrees of everyone else.”
I think you’ll find some practical take-aways and “real talk” about what it takes to have consistent work as a musician in this town, as well as some real insight into the spirit of living and working in Nashville. Come with us as we try to figure out what it means to live This Nashville life by listening to our interview with Derek Wells.