“There are no rules for success,” says Bibi McGill, leader of Beyoncé’s band Suga Mama. But these 16 principles could transform your musical career.
This is the person Beyoncé entrusts with directing, directing, and coordinating her backing band on tour. The band is called Suga Mama and is part of a huge road show that plays to tens of thousands of people in the biggest arenas every night.
But that’s just an appearance for Bibi McGill. And it all started with a phone call in the early 2000s asking if Pink should play guitar. She had to write the guitar parts for several songs during a plane trip to New York – in coaching class. Then she went straight from the airport to the studio and smashed it.
These days she is concentrating on her professional yoga career. In fact, we met her right after an intense yoga session Glen Ivy Hot Springs in Corona, California. We asked Bibi how she became one of the best guitarists in the world today, let alone a professional yogi and Beyonce’s collaborator.
Here’s what she told us.
1. Bad attitudes destroy careers.
“Are you the type of person people want to work with?” Bibi asked me.
“Maybe you can play circles around me on the guitar. But if you can’t show up on stage with charisma, if you’re the person who’s late, doesn’t do your homework and isn’t prepared, or if you’re just an idiot and have a bad attitude, you’re selfish…you won’t get the job.”
“I’ll get the job.”
“I’ve worked with people who are cocky and they’re a lot better than me. But I get more jobs because people don’t want to work with them.”
2. You don’t have to be the best. But you have to be damn good.
“There are musicians at a much higher level than me,” Bibi admitted. “You can hear a symphony for the first time and play it on the piano.”
But you can still get the job – especially if you’re talented and can play under pressure. “You have to learn to read music and train your ears,” advises Bibi.
3. Success makes you lonely.
Being Beyoncé’s bandleader sounds like the ultimate dream job. Except you don’t hang out with Beyoncé all the time. And if so, it’s usually work-related. Because on a packed arena-level tour, there’s a lot of work and coordination involved. And the deadlines are at the moment.
Bibi also told me about the constant coordination between Beyoncé and the group. And as a band leader, there are many difficult situations and difficult decisions to be made. Add in a disciplined schedule and yoga routine, and it can be quite an isolating experience.
4. Play your personal style, not someone else’s.
It took Bibi years to appreciate and develop her unique, personal style. That turned out to be groundbreaking. “Learning to play with your heart… I didn’t know I had a style until people kept telling me, ‘Wow, your style is so unique!'”
“I’ve never tried to copy anyone,” Bibi told me. “Find out who you are and learn to express yourself authentically.”
“If you really want to be successful and have a career, whether it’s semi-pro, pro, or part-time or full-time like I’ve done; Like I said before, be true to yourself. It’s not just about how good you can play the guitar.
“It’s about the whole package.”
5. Forget fame and fortune.
“It wasn’t something I was ever looking for. I just wanted to do my best on the guitar – and I hope people appreciate that.”
6. You’ll never make it.
Bibi is still taking classes, still practicing and still learning more to expand her skills. She never peaked (at least in her mind). “I don’t think you’ll ever make it,” Bibi said.
“I always want to get better.”
7. Learn music theory and then forget it.
People spend years locked away in music institutions learning theory. That’s good to know, but it’s also good for pop musicians to forget. “I went to college and studied music for four and a half years,” Bibi told me. “I was taught theory and I was very technical. But when I left college, I had to unlearn all that. I had to learn to play with heart and soul.”
“It took me years to unlearn what I learned in college. If I hit a wrong note on stage, I just bend and move on to something else.”
8. Don’t party. Go to bed early. Then wake up and do yoga.
Bibi said she rarely went out on tour and partied. Instead, she went to bed early, then got up early and did yoga. As a result, she never suffered from a hangover and was always calm and focused.
“I do my yoga even more diligently on the way,” said Bibi. “On the road six days a week.
“People came in with a hangover. I’ve often been asked, “Why are you always in such a good mood?” Well, I didn’t poison myself last night.”
9. “Nothing and nobody is perfect.”
Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. “Perfectionism doesn’t interest me at all,” Bibi tells us.
“Nothing and nobody is perfect. I want to be good, I want to be professional.”
“But you have to do your best. Come, be present and do your best.”
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10. You may not need any formal music training.
For jazz and classical artists, formal training is definitely an advantage. But Bibi isn’t quite sure if a pop musician needs that.
“In a professional environment, you can read sheet music if you need to. Or you can learn by ear,” Bibi told me. “If it’s pop music, you have to play by ear.”
And maybe you want to do without a musical education altogether. “Some people don’t have to go to college at all and can still be successful and have a successful career in the music industry,” Bibi said.
11. Learn to play on the spot.
That’s partly because pop and rock musicians usually have to create their parts on the spot. “I’ve never had to read sheet music, it’s always done by ear,” Bibi said. “Because nobody has the time to write charts for everyone. It’s easier to say: here’s the music, learn it and come over and let’s play.”
In fact, Bibi’s big break came with pink. The artist asked Bibi to do a guitar part on some of her unreleased songs — now. Bibi had to find out the entire guitar line-up on the flight to New York – in coaching lessons without her guitar in hand. She then jumped into a limousine at the airport and drove straight to the studio, where she laid down the guitar parts.
12. Focus on learning, not failure.
Bibi doesn’t get bogged down by so-called “mistakes”. Instead, everything is a learning experience for them. “There’s nothing in my brain that says, ‘Oh man, I shouldn’t have done that,'” Bibi told me.
13. Just say “no” if it doesn’t align with your ethics.
Let greater principles guide you; It’s not just about the money. “Don’t just say ‘yes’ just because you think you have no other choice,” Bibi said.
14. Reduce it!
Huge bands and huge musical ensembles are expensive! That’s why when she’s not touring with Beyoncé, Bibi plays a super compact one-man gig. That night at the Glen Ivy Hot Springs Resort (where we did the interview), Bibi was DJing – solo. “All my guitar gear fits in a backpack,” laughed Bibi. “And there is no guitar technician.”
In fact, now that Beyonce is busy raising kids and no longer touring, Bibi is making more money than he did with Suga Mama. Imagine that!
15. Just play. and game. And game…
Bibi says playing just half an hour a day is a great start. And true learning comes from playing what you love. “Learn your favorite song,” Bibi advised. Or all!
In fact, Bibi McGill grew up listening to and learned from a variety of musicians including Randy Rhoads, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Michael Jackson and BB King. Nowadays, Bibi sometimes practices more than 14 hours in rehearsals.
But who is counting the hours?
16. There are no rules for success — except for this last one.
Bibi made it clear that these are not “rules for success”. It’s just a few things that work for them. But she ended with one last piece of sage advice. “Make sure whatever you’re trying to achieve isn’t just selfish,” Bibi said.
“When you do things that serve the highest good of all, you are truly successful.”