Middle Tennessee State University alumnus Ben Young has managed to build a respected reputation in the Los Angeles music circle as a successful guitar technician to the stars. Originally from Tampa, Fla., Young relocated to Murfreesboro in the late ’90s to attend MTSU’s highly acclaimed Recording Industry Management program. After graduating in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science degree in audio production and technology, Young ventured out west to fulfill his musical dreams. Currently residing in Burbank, California, Young has managed to maintain an active and successful career in the music industry. During his travels with various artists such as Sum 41, 30 Seconds to Mars, OK Go and Avril Lavigne, Young has visited numerous locales including England, Sweden, Greece and Germany. Currently on tour with rock band Sublime with Rome, Young took time out of his busy schedule to talk with The Murfreesboro Pulse.
Murfreesboro Pulse: Can you explain what specifically your job entails?
Ben Young: As a guitar tech, I’m responsible for making sure the artist’s guitars are tuned before and during a show. I’m the guy you see on stage before and during a concert handing off guitars to the performers.
MP: What is a typical day on the job like for you?
BY: When on tour, whatever time load in is, that’s when my job starts. Sometimes it can be as early as 10 in the morning or as late as 3 in the afternoon. Once loading starts, I grab equipment from the truck and start setting it up on the stage and make sure everything works properly and sounds the way it’s supposed to sound. It’s my job to fix any problems that have arisen. Once everything has been set up, I check everything going through the monitors and the front of house system to ensure everything sounds the way it should sound. Then after the show is over, we tear it all down and do it all again the next day.
MP: What instruments do you play?
BY: I play guitar and bass, and I sing a little bit.
MP: Didn’t you also previously work as tour manager?
BY: Yes, I managed a Murfreesboro band called The Ricketts while I was at MTSU, and that experience eventually set me towards my current path.
MP: Can you take me through your journey from Florida to MTSU?
BY: I found out about MTSU’s Recording Industry Management program through Spongebath Records, which was a local indie label in Murfreesboro. I was a fan of their bands and that led me to MTSU. I didn’t know that major existed until then, but after discovering it, I decided that was going to be my major in college.
MP: How did you get to Burbank from Murfreesboro?
BY: After I graduated, I moved out to Los Angeles in January 2003, and I worked at a recording studio for a few months. My original plan was to become a producer, so I got a job at a recording studio right away. While working at the studio, I met a band called Steriogram, who was recording their debut record for Capitol Records, and I convinced them to hire me as their tour manager and guitar tech. That’s how I ended up on the road and I learned the job as I went. At first I pretended to know what I was doing, although at the time I didn’t know shit, but I learned the ropes pretty quick.
MP: Tell me about your current gig working with Sublime with Rome. Didn’t you recently tour abroad?
BY: Yes, we recently toured South America. We played Buenos Aires and then had eight shows in Brazil. Then we played several festivals and headlining shows in London, Sweden, Austria, Greece and Germany.
MP: Do you ever think back to your radio show days at WMTS and find it difficult to believe this is really your life nowadays?
BY: Back in my WMTS days, I used to work for a band called The Matches. They’re what’s called a band’s band, if you will. While working with them, I got to tour with them and meet a lot of the people I listened to when I was growing up and played on WMTS all the time. Bands like Reel Big Fish, Blink 182 and Less Than Jake, for example. Now I’m on tour with these people and friends with them, which is kind of interesting. Seeing my life come together in the way that it has doesn’t blow my mind, but I’m sure my 18-year-old self would’ve thought what I’m doing now is amazing. Although nowadays I guess I’m somewhat jaded. Ha ha!
MP: What made you seek out guitar technician as a career?
BY: My career has slowly evolved into working as a guitar tech. During my previous experience working with artists as tour manager, production assistant, as well as a guitar tech, it slowly became obvious to me that my talents are best suited to be a guitar technician. Plus the money is pretty good.
MP: Are there any negative aspects of your job that you worry about or fear?
BY: I’m pretty happy about what I’m doing right now, but I do worry about reaching the glass ceiling in this line of work. I’m making a good living at 30, but I don’t want to be making this same amount of money when I’m 45. I’m always keeping my eyes and ears open for other opportunities, but for right now, I really enjoy doing what I’m doing.
MP: Do you have any sage advice to offer current recording industry majors thinking about a career in the music business?
BY: People often ask me how to break into the business, but there’s really no one good answer. It often comes down to a lot of luck, timing and talent. It’s all about networking and building a good rapport with people. It took me a long time of working for very little money, but the relationships I made along the way eventually paid off for me. I never committed myself to following just one path or one dream. I think if you focus on only one direction, you might miss a chance that could lead to even greater possibilities.