The distinction between a worker and a leader:
A leader takes ownership of and responsibility for their part.
A worker does not have to worry about the results they just do what they are told.
When you go into the studio to record try being a leader unless you are explicitly asked to be a worker.
What does it look like to be a session leader?Be willing to satisfy your creative expression first before taking feedback. The artist likely will have already given you a general idea as to what they want. I’m not saying ignore that. Once you know the boundaries set by the artist or producer act with autonomy within them. Do not defer decisions to anyone else in the room too soon. Set a high standard. Care about the end result as much as if it were your song. You know better than anyone whether you could have played the section better. If you know you can play it better, then ask for another pass. If you are unhappy with the part do not sign off on it.
Pay attention. Every section, every phrase, every transition, etc… Pay attention to what you are doing. If the transition into the second chorus felt off, then speak up and overdub it. Tell the engineer what you need.
Tell the engineer what you need.
You help dictate the pace. You do not need to wait to be told what to do.
A leader says, “give me another pass”. A worker stares vacantly at the ceiling until they are told what to do.
Do not let a producer comp your part. Write your own part. If a producer or artist wants another option, give it to them. The artist has final say because it is their song. Giving dozens of options to an artist is not the same as writing a part. Your session work should not be the equivalent of a creative brain dump unless you are asked to dump. Commit. Fast.
DO all this and you will have an edge over every other session musician and be asked back for more gigs. You will certainly make your artist, producer, or engineer happy.
Founder of @lostharbormusic