Session Drumming Month: Mark Pusey's Top Tips
Mark Pusey is one of the session scene's brightest stars. Over the last few years Mark has sat behind the kit for everyone from Tom Jones and Il Divo to JLS and Girls Aloud, via Will Smith and Eminem.
Here's Mark's view on a few key pointers of the session industry.
Keeping track of gigs
"Keep a strict diary! I have a good calender on my phone, and a written diary. I have a poor memory, so keeping good diaries is essential for me, especially when you're working with lots of different artists in different places. My Mum keeps joking she's going to be my secretary when she retires, I'm holding her to that promise! I also have a fantastic drum tech who takes my gear around and sets it up so he has to be kept in the loop with what's going on and where I need kits. There's a famous quote by Jaco Pastorius, when asked what was the hardest thing about sessions, he replied, "Finding somewhere to park". He was right! Add to that the fact you have gear to set up, I always have to be there first, being on time is so important. Get everywhere an hour early, set up leisurely, have a coffee and run over the set."
Managing your money
"When you first start being a freelance musician, nobody is there to tell you about keeping good books. Seek the council of a good accountant, straight away. Pay for an hour of their time to get them to teach you how to deal with organising your finances. That lesson will hold you in great stead. Also, put away 20% of everything you earn immediately for tax. Every year, friends of mine panic because they have spent all their money and owe thousands in tax, don't be caught out. And also, when you're starting out, expect to be very poor for a few years until things start happening for you. Don't live beyond your means and spend wisely! "
Make use of your downtime
"You have to learn how to manage time off. Make the most of it by practising, learning something new, getting accounts done, working on getting more work etc. The more your reputation grows, the less time you have to yourself, so nowadays I relish a few days where I can catch up on things. I used to get really panicky when I had time off, but now I have gotten used to making the most of it and force myself to relax!"
Stay in shape
" I like to stay in shape for my own personal well being, and I think there is a correlation between exercise and my ability to get things done. I find I am more productive when I run and swim, I have more energy and it helps long-term concentration too. You get to listen to music or learn sets when you exercise, so it's a kind of practise! Unless the music calls for it, I am rarely out of breath when playing, and I think that's a balance of technique and a general level of fitness. Maybe there's a relationship between fitness and drumming? I went to the gym with Thomas Lang once, and nearly died, yet that man is so next level, it's untrue."