Through Jeannette Hurt, Next avenue
Pop guitarist, producer, arranger and songwriter Neil Giraldo, 61, was working on a script about local musicians and their struggles in 2016 and one of his partners in the business suggested they find a company of spirits to sponsor the film’s trailer. Instead, Giraldo told his partner, “Why don’t we start our own liquor company to help musicians?”
That’s exactly what Giraldo, who lives in Los Angeles with his rocker wife Pat Benatar, has done with his Three Chord Bourbon and the musical ambassador/mentorship program of his company Steel Bending Spirits. (Three Chord Bourbon, distributed in 31 states, gets its name from the fact that the roots of the blues are three basic chords.)
“The company wouldn’t have come into being if there hadn’t been a comeback program,” Giraldo says. Although president of Steel Bending Spirits, Giraldo is best known for his four decades in the music industry, with hits such as “Jessie’s Girl” for Rick Springfield and those for his four-time Grammy Award-winning wife since then. 39-year-old Pat Benatar (“Love Is a Battlefield” and “We Belong,” to name just two of their tracks).
The way the embassy and mentoring program works is that local or regional musicians promote Three Chord Bourbon on their tours and that Steel Bending Spirits sponsors shows in the clubs where they perform. The company pays for stages at local venues and musicians can perform and sell their wares.
Giraldo Mentorship Program for Musicians
The genesis of the program began with the beginnings of the company.
“It has already helped several musicians, but “I think we have five that are really serious”, explains Giraldo, whose catalog contains more than 100 songs and has sold more than 45 million records.
One of the musicians Giraldo has helped is Dave Miller, a singer, songwriter and guitarist who leads blues band Miller and the Other Sinners in Buffalo, NY, home of Steel Bending Spirits (his distillery is in Ann Arbor, Mich.).
Miller was invited to play at a launch party for Three Chord Bourbon and the night before was performing at a club where he met Giraldo. “I’m on this little stage, and here’s the entourage,” Miller said. “Neil – he’s unmistakable – and he looks at me, nodding his head in approval.”
During his band’s break, Miller spoke with Giraldo. “He sat me down and he said, ‘We need to talk about doing gigs together, and we need to figure out how we can help you get better gigs,'” Miller recalled. feel like you’ve won the lottery.”
Being a musical ambassador immediately opened doors for Miller.
A lucky music mentee
“I was racing in northern Kentucky,” Miller says. “Normally when I was sending cold emails [to get bookings], I sent fifty to get two or three replies. But I only sent ten emails and received seven in return. All of a sudden, here is this mark that gives credibility to me and my music. Right away, it made things easier.”
Because of the sponsorship, Miller says, “the venues see it as a special event where they could get more people on a free night, and sometimes they pay you more.”
Besides the brand’s financial help, Giraldo says ambassadors “can also contact anything at any time” at Giraldo for mentorship. Sometimes that mentorship is about the music itself.
For Miller, for example, “Dave might send me songs or ideas for things, and I might tell him he should consider going further in that direction or I might tell him he needs to remix something,” says Giraldo.
Sometimes, however, mentoring is more about work-life balance, something Giraldo knows a little about.
Giraldo has helped musicians with young families, advising them to focus on building their hometown base first. Then, once they are more settled, he tells the interpreters, they can travel with their families.
“It’s about having a quality of life,” says Giraldo.
Offer advice on business and life
One of the biggest areas of Giraldo’s mentorship, however, is as a business advisor.
“What’s the point of being a great musician and a great songwriter if you can’t make a living from it?” asks Giraldo.
Still, he adds, the music business can be difficult for young performers to navigate.
“Musicians don’t always follow the business side of the music industry, because when you’re a musician, really, all you want to do is be a better musician,” Giraldo says. “That’s why so many people get screwed over by managers and agents and people who rip them off.”
Giraldo speaks from experience.
In his early days, Giraldo wrote a song and a music company offered him $500 to buy all the rights to it. He then approached another company, which offered him $10,000.
“I was lucky, but it taught me a lesson that I had better pay attention to the business side of the music industry,” he says, adding that he was also lucky enough to have mentors, including his uncle, who guided him.
This is why mentoring has become so important to Giraldo.
“I’m extremely grateful that my life turned out the way it did, and I want to help as many people as possible,” he says.
Miller says he and the other Three Chord Bourbon ambassadors are now networking and helping each other.
As a result of his tenure as ambassador, Miller says he now has leadership representing him and his music.
The future of Neil Giraldo
“We have big plans to break into other states,” Miller said.
And for the scenario of Giraldo? “I’m finishing it and I intend to make the film,” he says.
In the meantime, however, Giraldo is looking for more music ambassadors to mentor, just like his uncle Timmy did for him years ago.
“If it hadn’t been for him, things wouldn’t have happened the way they did for me,” Giraldo said.