When Rick Gabler, the Music Director at Roots Music Project, began his long and successful musical career, he was told that “the best musician is the guy who lifts everyone else up in the room.” Gabler, Dave Kennedy of Alamo Drafthouse and others at Roots Music Project have kept that statement in mind when running the Colorado non-profit music incubator.
Roots Music Project (RMP) has fostered the local scene for musicians, fans, and venues for the past seven years and has made it their mission to bring light to the musical talent in the front range. While everyone credits themselves with creating something “one-of-a-kind,” RMP has taken it to the next level in how they lift up and inspire local musicians in Colorado.
“Anyone can go to a music store and learn how to play the guitar, or take voice lessons to improve their singing. Roots Music Project takes that to the next step. We take musicians who have the potential to be world-class, and we encourage their strengths and fix their weaknesses,” said Rick Gabler, “Not only do they work on their musical skills with experts in the field, but they learn how the music business works and create connections through our organization. We see the potential in musicians and make sure that their next step is a successful one.”
There are many reasons why musicians have a difficult time making it in the music business. According to Keerthy Narayanan, the Mixing and Mastering Engineer at HomeGrown Mixes Music Arranger on the Grammy Winning Album Winds of Samsara, the general lack of strategy appears to be the culprit for many new musicians.
Dated approaches such as the “spray and pray” (trying to get your name out there in any way possible), not understanding the industry as a whole and not building the appropriate connections are a few of the reasons why making it in the music business is such a struggle.
The experts at RMP have seen this naiveté and have taken it in stride. Through the unique lessons and one-on-one coaching that the organization provides, musicians who are serious about making a career out of music are able to get a leg up on their competitors.
“Band coaching” is one of the many programs that the local music incubator offers to encourage Coloradan musicians. For two hours, musicians get to work with experts like Gabler and Kennedy and take their music from amateur to expert. At the end of the lesson, artists are connected with a paid gig.
Additionally, musicians who work with the organization enjoy the perks of the unofficial “Rick Gabler University.“ Gabler has been in the music business for upwards of 47 years as a musician, businessman and teacher. If there were anyone to teach you how to make it in musical strongholds like Nashville or L.A., it’s him. In the lessons he teaches, students are taught how to network, how to navigate the business world, and how to become well-rounded musicians in all aspects.
“Great songwriting is the biggest strength you can have in this business. We have our musicians take part in our month-long speed writing course which is what you’ll see every professional do. We encourage our students to kind of just ‘vomit out’ ideas, and then go back and find the golden parts.” Said Gabler, “They do the program for 16 straight days, one hour a day. Our teachers give them some chords and song lyrics to choose from and create something out of it. This type of strategy takes all the analyzing out of music writing and gets straight to the raw talent instead.”
Another unique aspect the organization encourages for its students is networking. New and seasoned musicians to the scene are matched with experts that connect them with managers, radio programmers and venues. They are even introduced to potential band members as the organization hosts musicians from acoustic guitarists to EDM artists.
RMP’s work has clearly been successful with students like Coleman Dickson, a blues guitar and vocal prodigy and soon-to-be indie-pop sensation, Abigail Osborn, gaining popularity in Colorado and the nation. With the help of organizations like RMP, they have the potential to be big names in the business.
Colorado is not new to locals becoming household names. The Centennial State has a rich history of producing raw talent like The Fray, Lumineers, Nathanial Rateliff, One Republic, India.Arie and others. With RMP inspiring local musicians and encouraging live music, it’s no surprise that the next John Mayer or Taylor Swift might just be your next-door neighbor.
“We believe music makes the world a better place. Live music is one of those local creative arts that is very specific to Colorado. Though a lot of people bemoan the fact that Denver and Boulder are changing and that new people are coming in, local music in Colorado never will change. Even when the buildings change or your favorite dive bar gets torn down, we want to keep the musicians there and we want to encourage them.” said Dave Kennedy, founder and self-proclaimed cheerleader of Roots Music Project.
Even with the stress and change that COVID-19 brought to the local and live music scene in Colorado, RPM made sure that musicians and fans know live music will always stay around. Kennedy, Gabler and others used creative methods to connect people in the industry and support their musicians. Similar to many businesses disrupted by the virus, Zoom was heavily utilized. Through the online program, they were able to offer free lessons and hosted showcases and jam sessions throughout the pandemic.
Thankfully, with the return of live music, events at Roots Music Project have also begun anew. The organization is particularly excited for the Roots Music Project Showcase – Colorado’s Present and Future Stars on Saturday, August 7 at 7 p.m. Tickets will be sold at $12 for a chance to see local artists who are taking Colorado’s music scene by storm. Some of the exciting musicians to be featured at the event are The Jack Brown Trio, Christopher Morse, Abigail Osborn and I.O. Underground. For a list of future events check out a list here.
For musicians who are are looking to make it in the business, it’s time to pull out your instruments from underneath the bed and be lifted up by Roots Music Project.