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Music

The Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood gives five tips for aspiring musicians

@SamWKemp

If you’re looking for advice on how to make it big in the music industry, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better mentor than Ronnie Wood. The Rolling Stones guitarist joined Mick Jagger Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Bill Wayman in 1975 and went on to soar to the very high of rock stardom, making him the perfect person to go to for a bit of guidance.

Speaking to the NME, Wood revealed five tips for making it big in the music business. According to the guitarist, one of the most important lessons young musicians need to learn is the value of making music your own. Mimicry can actually get you a long way in the industry, but only so far. As Woods recalled, his own greatest strength was the ability to morph his influences into something unique. “My first band The Birds hung out with all the greats – The Who, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and so on – but we were learning the ropes. We may not have had a hit record but we did our best. We took our influences from Tamla Motown, the blues and early rock ‘n’ roll, and made it our own. That was important.”

But to make something unique, you need to have drive. For Woods, success is all about dreaming big: “I always knew, even when I was in The Birds, that I was going to be in The Rolling Stones,” he said. “I was going to be in that band one way or another, and I would broadcast the fact. I thought it looked like a good job, and it turns out that it is. It goes to show you can set your sights on something and get it, if you think big and put in the work.”

Any young musician knows that practice is everything. According to Ronnie Wood, one of the best ways to make a name for yourself is to perform as many shows as possible. In doing so, you’re honing your skills as a musician and performer as well as putting yourself out there. Of course, that was much easier in Woods day, but the principle still holds true. “There’s a lot to be said for the grind – going up and down the country in a van, playing gig after gig after gig. I feel sorry for bands now that aren’t exposed to that way of life. For so many, they think it’s either straight on in front of millions of people or they’re destined to be forgotten, but there is another way; it involves cutting your teeth the hard way, and it can be a slog, but it can be done. Rehearsing in a garage, getting in the gig wagon and playing hundreds of shows, that’s what it’s all about.”

Gigging relentlessly brings bands together. Wood suggests getting to know your bandmates inside and out. Knowing a bandmate as you would a family member not only makes life on the road easier but allows for greater communication, which, by extension, means better songs. “Touring in those days, we were all piled in the van on top of each other and all the gear,” Wood said of The Rolling Stones. “It was rough, but it meant we knew each other inside out. There was backbiting and arguing, being that hemmed in, and situations would come up that no-one would normally have to deal with. The Stones went through the same thing, too. Even though we travel a lot more luxuriously now, that grounding means we can all deal with all sorts of situations.”

But one of the most important pieces of advice Woods has to offer is to absorb as much of the experience as possible. Whether it’s playing a live show or recording in the studio, it’s easy to remember what made you stressed and forget just how much fun you had. That’s why Wood recommends keeping a diary. “If you’re lucky like me you’ll be so busy you won’t have time to remember all the great things you did,” he began. “Going back through my diary from 1965 I remembered I bumped into Sid James one night. And another entry reads: ‘Had a great time with Wilson Pickett.’ ‘In The Midnight Hour’ was the biggest record there was for me, but I’d forgotten all about our adventure together until I picked up the diary again”.

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