Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Guest Artist Feature: Christian Wiggs - Jazz Vocalist, Part 2

The Start of New Things: 2015

Back at the start of this year gigs were great and to top it off, a life-long friend of mine, Zack Kibodeaux (Blue Water Highway Band), told me about an opportunity he might have for me and asked if I would send him my materials. I didn’t think much of it, especially only being eighteen years old at the time, I was certain that I wouldn’t be a strong contender...

In March 2015, I got a call from Steve Moreland, a bandleader/trumpet player out of Austin. Steve ran his own entertainment company, Moreland-Young Entertainment, with his wife, Tori Moreland, & David Young, one of Chicago’s greatest trumpet players. The reason for his call was that he was referred to me by several sources of being a jazz vocalist. Steve wanted to know my interest in an audition for his big band, The Vintage 15. I couldn’t believe I was having the conversation, but obviously I was all in. We exchanged emails and calls over the next month until my audition in April. It wasn’t long after that I was notified that they wanted to go my direction with the big band. That was quite a day to remember. My excitement was through the roof and I would be starting within just two weeks, taking over for the amazing jazz vocalist, Kevin Ahart.

Performing with the group was out of this world. The band was so tight and sounded great. The bandstand was packed full of Austin’s greatest jazz musicians. I knew I was in my element and it felt like I was truly where I needed to be. The more we performed, the more I comfortable I felt, not only on stage, but with the musicians and bandleaders alike. We thrived off of each other. My networking in this area had started and was growing like crazy. I met so many killer musicians and started playing with them frequently.

This brings us to just here recently, around August 2015. It often crossed my mind to have material professionally recorded. It always seemed like a far off dream, but one day I started thinking. With the support I had now from my hometown and the Austin area alike, fundraising an album didn’t seem so far-fetched. I immediately started putting together a budget and got in touch with musicians I highly respected to see how they would feel about recording on it. It seemed like all lights were green and the budget, although large, seemed obtainable. I started a GoFundMe page with all of the needed information about where benefactor’s donations would go and booked several shows to market as fundraiser shows. My goal was to record and have the album out by the new year. After a couple weeks on GoFundMe and two shows, there was enough backing to pay for the studio session and musicians. 

It was November 10th when we headed into the studio, a day that was so very special to me. Everyone on the crew down to the photographer were a delight to work with. It was important that we record as soon as possible, and after talking about the reality of this with the sound engineer, I knew I needed to release it on December 12th, Sinatra’s 100th birthday. As one of my greatest musical inspirations, I wanted to honor him in the greatest way I knew how: to release my first record on his centennial. Each chart pays tribute to classic recordings by the timeless musicians who inspire me most. 

There was another special man I needed to acknowledge. From the origin of the idea to record an EP, I knew immediately that it had to be dedicated to my greatest mentor and my friend, Brian Casey. He is the reason I am the musician that I am today. Without him, I doubt any of this would have happened. The title of the album is “Wonderful You Came By”. A fun little bit of information for you jazz enthusiasts out there, I wanted the title to have a classic jazz sound to it. One of my favorite charts, although it isn’t on the track listing, is Orange Colored Sky. If you take a listen closely to the lyrics, you might recognize four of those words! A long, long month later, the record was complete, everything was paid for and I already had an overwhelming positive response to the recording, in sales and reactions. Due to popular demand, I am currently printing the first edition of physical CD’s, which will be available for purchase at the very start of 2016. As Ol’ Blue Eyes sang himself, it was a very good year.

[Editor's Note: purchase a digital copy of this wonderful CD here: http://christianwiggs.bandcamp.com/releases]

All the while, I was gigging most every weekend with V15 all across Texas in various cities and continue to do so currently. Be sure to catch us at a show at www.thevintage15.com or my website, www.christianwiggs.com.

I mentioned a few of my inspirations that directly impacted me, but these aren’t the only ones. When I listen to this music, the standards, the classics, I always walk away inspired by these great crooners. Well, they were so many things: musicians, entertainers, artists. What they have created is simply this: art. The greatest of these influences for myself have to Sinatra and Chet Baker. Baker was most notably a trumpet player, but had such a unique, delicate vocal sound as well. One of the greatest records of all times that I’m constantly called back to is Chet Baker Sings. As a trumpet player/vocalist, it serves as a “musical bible”. Not far behind them are familiar & unfamiliar names Ella Fitzgerald, Tony DeSare, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Michael Bublé and Bobby Darin just to name a few. There are so many great artists out there and it is a really special thing to listen to each of them and their interpretations. As an artist myself, one of my main goals is to honor their styles and bring something new to the table as well.

To those of you who aspire to be a musician, I want to encourage you that it is possible to be successful in that! Now, I don’t want to make it seem like it will a walk in the park. It is far from that. You’ll find yourself clocking hours and hours (really more like weeks and weeks) devoting that time to building up your career. But, it is because of those hours that will make you stronger as a musician and a person. As terribly cliche as this sounds, let the music be a portrayal of your emotions. You can spot the difference one hundred miles away of a musician who plays from their heart as opposed to playing the ink on the page. Always surround yourself with musicians that are better than yourself. When you commit to being a musician, you’re committing to being a student for life. Music is such a vast, broad field that you can always learn something new, especially when it comes to jazz. Listening to style and staying humble is such a key element. It is so easy for people to get lost in the industry and lose sight of the reason you got into it in the first place. Remember that the music is where the truly beautiful things come from.
We’ve all heard it said, “In this business, it’s all about who you know.” While that is true, even more importantly, it is about who knows you.

If you have questions, there are so many people around you who want you to succeed, use them. Likewise, if you have any questions for me, please feel free to contact me through my website, www.christianwiggs.com! I would love to help in any way I can and give back, just like my mentors gave back to me.

Wonderful You Came By” is available on iTunes, BandCamp, Google Play, Amazon Music, Rdio, Tidal, YouTube Music & more. You can also access it through my website, which will be listed again with all of the links below. I am available for hire in several different band sizes including quartets, combos, full 15 piece big band, big band with strings & more. Availability and booking can be found through Moreland-Young Entertainment, www.morelandyoungentertainment.com!

Thank you so much for taking the time to have me talk to you. It was a pleasure to share a small part of my life with you all here today and a special thank you to Charles Wolf for having me on as a guest!
-Christian Wiggs

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