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Once upon a time not so long ago Devin Zorn (Dallas, TX) was having trouble gaining traction in his career as a musician and engineer. If that situation sounds familiar, Devin’s got some advice: “Literally the only reason why I’m successful right now is because I didn’t quit,” he says. “It was one of those things where I had to just put my foot down, like, ‘I’m making something happen.’ That’s been the most important lesson in life which I’ve always followed but never really thought about till now – don’t quit!”
Work begets work. Devin found that to be the case even while working at Guitar Center. Believe it or not, it was a move he’d actually put some thought into. He simply had to get the bills paid while he was pursuing his career in music. It was a smart move for Devin considering building genuine connections is one of the main components of any promising career in music.
Going in to interview for the position at Guitar Center, Devin had one major thing working against him: he was young and consequently had little work experience. What he didn’t have in experience he made up for in spades with passion. Armed with the musicianship that comes from being a lifelong guitar player and having a sound knowledge of instruments, Devin was probably a big “maybe” in the eyes of the manager. Things turned in Devin’s favor when he mentioned his mentor Rick Rooney’s name.
In response the regional manager said, “I know Rick. I used to record with him a bunch.” Devin was hired and set his sights on earning his stripes as a trusted, stable employee while also pursuing engineering gigs on the side. Despite his smart, pragmatic approach Devin says there was a time when he’d hit a noticable slump.
One of his friends and coworkers, Joe Pirro, was the bassist for Tom Devil and the Wizard. The band had been having trouble nailing the sound they wanted. Devin tells us how it all went down:
The owner of the band had done EP’s and used to spend $3,000 a song to get the recording mixed, mastered, and produced and everything. After an EP and about three singles he was never happy with any of his recordings… [they’d] just kind of take his money, record him real fast and mix it real fast and make it sound like every other Dallas band’s, generic a_s mix for a modern rock recording…They didn’t want to do that again. So they went and bought all of this home recording stuff and tried to do it [themselves], and they realized, ‘This is going to take a lot of learning, a lot of learning.'”
The second time the band asked for his assistance, Devin jumped, seeing it as an opportunity to get his engineering juices flowing again. He recalls saying: “Let’s just make it happen.” 10 months later, they cut the LP. The whole process ended up being just the kind of thing he’d needed to get out of the slump:
I wasn’t expecting how good of a band they were going to be. From their musicianship down to their writing…It was really substantial music all the way through. So it was definitely a treat to get to work with them being the truly amazing artists that they are. The work I put in there vastly improved my recording and especially my mixing techniques…After the band’s bad experiences with other studios, it was quite a compliment when they told me that I’d made their recordings sound exactly like what they’d had in their heads. We have an amazing amount of mutual respect and plan to do many more projects together.”
The next Tom Devil and the Wizard project is in the works with Devin in the engineer’s chair, making it happen track by track. In recent months he’s also moved on from Guitar Center to running live sound for a large local church. It’s a well-paying gig that enables him to work 1-2 days per week while freeing him up to engineer more projects and do more in live sound in the Dallas and Fort Worth area (he’s recently joined the stagehand union IATSE local 127). And that’s not all, Devin’s also playing guitar in two bands: Kenny Hada and The Others and Pampa Gray, with whom he played the Dallas International Guitar Festival this past year!
Learn more about Devin Zorn’s journey in the weekly newsletter.