By Mike Sales
It probably comes as no surprise that my favorite part of Siesta Key is the impressive pool of talent on display at the many live music venues in the relatively small area of the village where I can always count on discovering another favorite.
TJ Hitt, was playing just across the street at The Hub, about the time I was deciding who to interview this month, so I went over to listen for a bit.
There are a good number of bands who play live, but it’s kind of rare to see a solo musician who just plays and sings without adding tracks or loops…TJ is in that small club and with his diverse repertoire, he relies on his love of each handpicked song to inspire his passionate performances.
WPT: Where are you from?
TJ: Venice, Florida.
WPT: When did you start playing?
TJ: It’s hard to say; my sister had a guitar when we were kids, so I guess that was when I got introduced to it and I played a little bit here and there growing up, but I guess I really got focused when I wanted to start playing out because you kind of have to play guitar if you want to sing solo gigs.
WPT: When did you start playing out?
TJ: Around 2003, I moved to Tallahassee and got a band together there and played out.
WPT: Is music your only job?
TJ: Yes, other than some times, like in Nashville, when I’ve taken side jobs; music is all I’ve ever done for a living.
WPT: What did you do in Nashville?
TJ: I moved there around 2009, to work with my friend that was in the Tallahassee band. I just drove up, slept in my car for a bit, met up with musicians, shared an apartment, really got into songwriting and learned how to play the game and monetize what we do from some up and coming pros. I learned first-hand what to do…that meant the difference between having a hobby and actually making a living.
Some of them went on to tour with National acts, some of them still work in town as session players and in the business. I still go up there and work with them to this day.
WPT: What does your typical calendar look like?
TJ: I try to get up to Nashville once a month…book a show a couple weeks out and time it for when I’m up there. This month, I’ll be performing in a songwriter in the round, singing and playing acoustic and then I’ll be singing in a heavy-metal jam with a bunch of guys who play with country artists for their regular gig…it’s going to be fun.
Week to week; I live in Venice and book some weeklys and one offs there, but I play on Siesta Key every week at The Hub 8:30-close on Saturday nights and The Daiquiri Deck 3-7pm on Thursdays.
WPT: What can people expect to see when they come to hear you play on Siesta Key?
TJ: One guy, one guitar and I aim to please…I’m there to entertain and I keep it simple because it frees me up to go with what the room is in the mood to hear. I don’t mess with looping or tracks, because it’s too constraining and I like to sing a lot of different stuff.
The most important thing to focus on, in my opinion, is not whether I’ve reproduced a riff accurately or nailed the bridge section, just like the record, but that I’m playing for people at that moment, so I always try to direct my attention to connecting with them and base my performance on that…because when the people are enjoying it; I know I’m doing my job.
WPT: What kind of music do you play?
TJ: Classic rock, 80’s, 90’s, modern pop…I might play Elton John, I might play Taylor Swift…Johnny Cash, Guns & Roses, Zeppelin, Alanis Morrisette…who knows…when you break it down, they’re all just songs. There are stylistic differences everyone adds to their interpretation, but when you focus on the words and melodies, you’re free to play however and whatever you want.
WPT: Have you recorded?
TJ: Yes; I did my first recording with my college band in 2005. We came back to Venice to record a demo. Since then, I’ve recorded 4 rock albums up in Nashville and recently finished a single up there.
WPT: Where do you see your career going from here?
TJ: I’ve got 3 years of stuff…I’m going to be releasing singles and records once a month. I’d like to make as much money streaming and selling records as I do performing live…that’s goal number 1, but I’d like to ultimately make a living just playing originals and do cover gigs for fun every now and then. I could be in the studio all of the time and be happy…it’s my favorite place to be.
WPT: What’s your favorite part about being a full time working musician?
TJ: I get to make a living doing what I’m passionate about. It’s not like I have a choice in the matter, because I can’t imagine doing anything else, but I feel very fortunate to have the privilege to do what I love…and it just keeps getting better, because I essentially get paid to practice and improve my art, 300 days a year…you can’t get any closer to the American Dream than that.
You can find out more about TJ Hitt, listen to music and watch videos at tjhitt.com
The Hub is located at 5148 Ocean Blvd Siesta Key and features live music daily.
The Daiquiri Deck is located at 5250 Ocean Blvd and feature live entertainment daily.
Mike Sales is a local singer/songwriter for more info log onto mikesalessings.com