Multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Sundy came to an important insight four years ago.
“I had been performing in San Diego for a long time, but I wasn’t making enough money, even though I was doing a lot of different gigs with several bands and theater shows and playing with the symphony — I was still struggling to pay the rent,” says Sundy. “I thought maybe I should try something different, so I looked into playing on a cruise ship. I went to Europe on a four-week contract, then came back home. I decided I should really go for it so I could save some money and put some away to invest in my career.”
Sundy spent the next nine months doing various tours on several different ships and he took advantage of whatever downtime he could acquire to work on writing original music for his band Nexus 4000, which debuted that music at the Whistle Stop in South Park on January 11. “I really tried to find time to practice saxophone and my flute as well as time to compose on the piano. I wrote a lot of that music while I was out to sea.”
On the ships he played with a “show band” that consisted of four horns, piano, bass, and drums, backing up a variety of guest artists playing jazz, funk, R&B and even light classical music.
Each ship is different when it comes to amenities, according to Sundy. “It depends — sometimes you have deck privileges and sometimes the musicians get to eat in the officers’ mess hall, which is good. One ship I was on had a pretty nice crew bar with an amazing jukebox. On the days I didn’t have to work, that was my favorite place to go — to read, hang out, and play tunes.”
Sundy kept pretty busy, generally, so there wasn’t always a lot of free time. “Finding a quiet spot to practice can be tricky — because the entertainment directors try to have something happening for the passengers on sea days — sometimes you have a performance on one end of the ship, then have to book it to the other end in a half an hour to make the next performance.”
The musician does have a fond memory from two years ago. “We docked in Amsterdam for New Year’s Eve. I was able to get off the ship in one of my favorite cities and spend the whole night out on the town.”