Neotech Ambassador Feature: Phillip Morin
Phillip Morin is a New Orleans based musician, specializing in the saxophone. He has used Neotech straps for many years and we are proud to welcome Phillip into the Neotech ambassador family! Keep scrolling to learn more about Phillip and his amazing journey as a musician in one of America's most vibrant music scenes!
Thanks so much for joining me for an interview today, Phillip!
So you just wrapped up Mardi Gras, right? How was that?!
Super late nights... It was super fun but after awhile I was like, "Oh my goodness I'm so exhausted and we still will have a few weeks to go!" haha
At one point, there was a crowd of like 10,000 people.
Wow! That's incredible! And you played for that crowd?
Yeah! I made some videos about it and need to post them!
We can't wait to see them! How are you liking the new straps we sent you?
I actually wore one of the new ones the night before on a gig. We are getting new costumes so I said that we need to get a jacket so I can wear the harness underneath. That Sax Practice Harness makes it feel like I'm wearing nothing. It's great!
That makes us so happy to hear! How did you get started in music?
I grew up in Maine. My dad and his parents, they all play. My dad plays guitar, but it's all like bluegrass, that kind of stuff. We had a piano and I started playing piano as a kid and then I picked up the sax when I was 10 in the school band. I actually wanted to play trumpet. One of my older brothers had the trumpet, so I said, "I guess I'll play the saxophone." I remember one of the first times I picked it up and I realized that I basically just scream into this thing and it makes music. I was this little kid with all this energy.
So yeah, I picked it up and it came naturally to me. I've played it for 26 years now. I didn't really dig into playing the saxophone until I went to college. That's when I really started working hard on it.
What type of saxophones do you play?
I play tenor for gigs now. I grew up playing alto. I play all of them. I played bari a lot in big band in college. I play some flute as well and some clarinet... I'm a pretty terrible clarinet player haha. We call it the misery stick.
Do you still play the piano too?
Yeah, I still play a lot of music on the piano as well.
That's really cool you can play multiple instruments. It gives you a lot of variety!
Yes, a lot of musical options.
So you come from a family of musicians. Do your other family members still play?
A couple of my brothers - I have 10 older siblings - they are really good but they didn't really stick with it because it wasn't their thing. I'm the only kid that still plays. My dad still plays. He plays bass for his church band. He doesn't really play much guitar anymore. I'm the only one that has really stuck with it.
Are you a full time musician?
I've been a full-time musician for about 10 years and during covid, I had a couple of jobs because we weren't gigging for like 9 months. I've always done carpentry. I grew up doing that as a kid. I had a full-time carpentry job during covid for like 8 months. When the gigging came back, I started doing carpentry 1-2 times a week just to help them out. It's a great company in town. Music is very abstract so it's nice to have something to do with your hands. At the end of the day, you can see a finished product.
That's great that you can be creative in carpentry too whenever you're not playing music!
How did you get involved with the band, Bag of Donuts?
I moved to New Orleans in 2011 and started playing full time. Me and the trumpet player, Ian Smith, we hit it off and started playing together all the time. We were actually studio musicians at the studio in town. Bag of Donuts came to do a single and we had such a good time playing with them. I remember we were talking after the session saying, "Man, we should do this live sometime!" They were like, "Yeah we should do this live sometime!" So we played a gig with them and it worked out, then a couple months later, we played another gig with them. After about a year and a half, when they were able to hire us, they asked us to come play full time.
It was huge for us. We are kinda freelancers. We play with everybody and they have had that band for 33 years now. To be established for 28 years and then ask for some other guys to join the band... it was an honor for us.
That is a really neat story about how y'all got together! Do y'all do mostly cover songs?
Yeah, we have some originals, but mostly cover tunes. We put our own take on it and have a bunch of medleys we've come up with. We're a party band... high energy... we just love to have a good time.
It seems like it! I've checked out y'alls music and it looks like y'all have so much fun!
What types of gigs do y'all usually do?
We do a lot of festivals - particularly in Texas. We also play for clubs and a lot of private events as well. We do probably about 15-20 weddings a year.
Do y'all wear your typical, rockish attire to weddings?
Oh yeah, we always say that the couple must be really fun and up to a good time if they hire us!
So I want to touch on the story about how we discovered you! A Neotech team member, Jesse, saw you at a gig in Houston, isn't that right?
Yeah! It was at a really fancy silent auction for a benefit. It was a great event in a beautiful venue that was set up like a Spanish style house.
Yeah, Jesse called me super excited saying he had met a really talented saxophone player who was wearing a Neotech harness! That's just so cool. We are so glad to have found you!
I've been wearing that strap for about 10 years now. I've thrown it in the wash pretty regularly. For gigging, it's pretty great!
How did you find Neotech products?
When I was a kid, I had a Neotech neck strap. I didn't really pay much attention to my strap because I was just a kid. It wasn't that I was choosing them. Then, when I got to college and was playing bari sax and trying to sit with a 25 pound instrument hanging off my neck, it was rough. I started looking for straps. I found a good bari strap. I think it was a Neotech strap.
Then, when I got to New Orleans, I was gigging 7 days a week and on the weekends it would be like 10-12 hours straight, gig after gig. It was crushing my shoulders just having a neck strap and a friend of mine that's a great saxophone player, Eric Bernhardt- who plays with Marcia Ball - had a harness on. He would wear a button up shirt and just the swivel was sticking out between the buttons. I was like, "Dude, what are you wearing under there? You look so comfortable!" It was a Neotech harness and it was the one that I bought. I loved it immediately, obviously, and played with it the last 10 years. I've been sticking with it. The quality is high.
That's so great to hear!
What advice would you give to someone who is starting out in music and who wants to be a musician like you?
Well it's kinda funny- especially with the saxophone. It's an easy instrument to play, but it's also an instrument really easy to play poorly haha. I would say, for a musician starting out, to just stay dedicated with it. It has to be a daily practice. Even if you aren't gigging. You just gotta play it every day. For awhile, it might feel like you aren't making progress and then 6 months later, you pick up a piece of music and it will be effortless. You'll say, "Oh I have gotten better!" You just have to stick with it. Everyone always says, "Practice. Practice." Really, that's what it takes. You've gotta put your "10,000 hours" in as they say.
Something else too - this is something I didn't really appreciate until I got older - is a lot of times as a younger person, I was really hesitant spending time working on stuff. I was like, "Oh, it's going to take awhile to learn that. Oh, that's an hour out of my day. Do I really want to do that?" Then, what I realized was that hour, or that time was going to go by anyway. If you wait because you don't want to spend the time to learn, then the longer it's going to take you to get there. Just start today.
That's very good advice! Do you ever happen to get stage fright when you are about to perform?
Not anymore. I used to when I was younger. The more people out there now, the more I like it. There's more energy from the crowd. I used to get more stage fright when I didn't know what I was doing or if I didn't know the music at all. Even if I had sheet music, if I hadn't played it before or heard it, I would get really nervous. There was that unknown of not seeing something before and all the distractions... people looking at me. Now, I'm to a point that I don't really mess up anymore haha... like this is a "musical choice" now haha.
So when playing with Bag of Donuts, I'm sure that there is a lot of spontaneity!
Oh for sure. We feed off the crowd. I can look at the trumpet player and we're thinking the exact same thing and play it. We have a lot of freedom in what we can do.
Where do you get your inspiration from as a musician?
Other really talented musicians- mainly jazz musicians. There are some piano players I love, like Oscar Peterson. There are a couple modern guys as well. My musical taste is varied. I'm into a lot of stuff. There's a certain energy here in New Orleans where it is loose but everybody's crushing it. There's freedom in it. I love going to live music and seeing guys that can be effortlessly fluid with it. So yeah, older jazz artists and going to see live music. It was rough during the pandemic. There's usually live music 7 days a week here and then it was, all of a sudden, silent. It was so weird!
It's great that things like live music is making a big comeback!
I'm curious- You grew up in Maine.... how did you end up in New Orleans?
I only planned to be in New Orleans for the weekend. I was visiting from Idaho. The second day I was here, I sat in with some bands and all of them hired me on the spot. By the end of the day, I was like, "I guess I'm not leaving... I have gigs lined up all week!" The next morning, I quit my job and found an apartment. I was supposed to be here 2 days and that was 11 years ago now!
That's incredible! And here you are today! We are so excited to see all the musical work you'll continue to do!
New Orleans is blessed to have the talent of Phillip Morin and Bag of Donuts!
P.S. Phillip has a new single coming out soon! Stay in the loop with him on his website and social media using the links below!!