Tell us about your tour vehicle. Any notable breakdown stories?
I rent cars because I have different players in various cities that play with me as Whitey Johnson. Bands in Nashville, LA, Austin, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Belfast. When I perform solo as Gary Nicholson I rent a vehicle in that area.
My stories of breakdowns on the road go on and on, but those were my younger days.
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
Go to the grocery store for fresh veggies and fruit and nuts and try to avoid fast food, you know situations are gonna keep coming where the food is not what you want, so you have to cover yourself.
How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
Don’t break many strings because I change them regularly for tone on my touring instruments although I love older strings for recording specific instruments.
If I changed strings on all my guitars all the time it could get costly, but it’s on an as needed basis.
Where do you rehearse?
I try to avoid rehearsals. I work with excellent players that learn the songs and then I can coach them on kickoffs and endings and specific instructions. So rehearsal space is backstage.
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
“Ninety Miles” recorded by my band Uncle Jim’s Music and covered by Doug Dillard. “It’s Ninety Miles to the nearest telephone, lonely Highway where do you go?”
Describe your first gig.
My very first gig was the eight grade talent show. My first serious play all night six nights a week was the roughest place I’ve ever played or even seen – the legendary Ft Worth Cellar. It would take a while to describe, but just as a starter, the waitresses wore only panties and bra and there was a firing range upstairs. Needs to be a movie.
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
Not many day jobs and no favorites, toughest one was digging post holes for the gas company or welding fins on bombs.
How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?
Unfortunately digital technology and music streaming has decimated the profession of songwriting so drastically that my career as a mostly non performing songwriter does not exist in the form that allowed me to have royalties advanced to me by a publisher to support my family. Now there are very few writers that have that opportunity.
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
How important it is to make the music that is true to you and your influences and avoid chasing trends.
Also, we should not ever compare ourselves to others, everyone’s path will be different.
Another thing is to recognize early that a career making music is a commitment far beyond having a job. It is a way of life and you have to embrace the changes and continue to focus on the joy of the art.