Mitch Gettman planted the seeds for his musical life in Omaha, while in front of a video camera, strumming renditions of songs he liked.
Those YouTube videos of a teenaged Gettman playing Radiohead, Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith covers more than four years ago have quickly spilled over into original songs, Omaha-are club gigs and his first full-length album, We Are The Mad Ones.
“I started posting YouTube videos long before I started writing my own stuff,” he says.
His first YouTube profile was mostly grunge-era covers, including several Nirvana songs.
Gettman says he got his first guitar when he was about 10, but he didn’t really start playing it until he was 12 years old. At first, he started by playing lots of U2 songs, which he bought tabulature books and instructional DVDs of to help guide his playing.
Gettman says he was writing his own stuff in eighth grade, while in a grunge-minded band with some kids his age.
It was also around that time that Gettman discovered Jeff Buckley and became captivated by the now-deceased 90s singer-songwriter’s work.
That led to Gettman’s musical taste changing, so he made a new profile under his own name.
Those first videos under his second profile represent a sampling of Gettman’s strongest early influences, covering Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”, as well as songs by Buckley and Elliott Smith.
Many of those early videos are still accumulating plays, he says. The covers brought viewers in to hear his singing and guitar-playing. As the number of YouTuber users subscribed to updates on Gettman’s profile grew, Gettman delved deeper. Posts of songs like Big Star’s “Thirteen” eventually emboldened Gettman to post a few original songs.
Gettman says he knew then that he wanted to get serious about making his own music.
“I don’t want to play in a cover band or be a cover artist,” he says. “I want to play my own music.”
Gettman says even though he has certain favorite musicians, he doesn’t really think about their sound or influence when he’s writing his own songs.
Still he admits that some artists probably have put a big imprint on him and that it comes out in how he plays music. Gettman says he strives to make music that feels like his own.
That something of Gettman’s own took form last summer, as the band worked with A.J. Mogis at ARC Studios in Omaha. Gettman was joined by bassist Andrew Malashock and drummer Adam Gerber during those sessions. Doug Van Sloun at Focus Mastered mastered the disc.
Two songs, “Where Are You Now” and “Drowning In My Sleep”, were re-recorded from Gettman’s only other release, the 2010 EP Worn. The first versions of those songs were recorded by Grasshopper Takeover singer Curtis Grubb at Grubb’s home studio.
When Gettman entered the studio with Mogis, he had a precise roadmap for what he wanted to get done. Gettman says he even had a tracklisting picked out for when the album was finished.
“I had a very specific idea going into studio as far as what I wanted it to be like,” he says.
Gettman says he really wanted the disc to flow well and he thinks he accomplished that on the disc. He says he wanted it to be dynamic, but still maintain a constant, steady feel throughout.
“It’s a good documentation of what I’m doing,” Gettman says.
Despite the planning, Gettman says he doesn’t feel like he’s mastered any part of music making. He says he’s happy with the album as a good start to a music career.
The album is already available for download via iTunes and Gettman’s web site.
Since the sessions for the new album, Gettman has picked up a new drummer, J.B. Ferguson, and a second guitarist, Adam Stoltenburg.
Gettman started playing gigs around Omaha has a freshman in high school, but he says things didn’t really start to pick up until his sophomore year.
A spot on a Gorilla Productions Battle of the Bands got Gettman noticed at the Waiting Room. A few months later he was invited to open for Ian Moore.
When Gettman was only about 15, he went to Omaha’s Rainbow Studios to record some of his original songs with Jeremy Garrett.
When Gettman told Garrett that he was looking for a backing band to play the songs with him, Garrett helped steer Gettman toward Malashock.
Gettman gained a big assist from Malashock, who had logged plenty of band experience before joining Gettman’s band. Whether it was structuring practice sessions or lining up gigs, Malashock helped Gettman figure out how to make the band thing work.
“I’ve learned a lot from just playing with these older musicians,” Gettman says.
Gettman first gained local notice on account of his age, starting out playing club gigs before he could even drive. His parents were supportive from his very first solo gigs.
Gettman says his father Steve even took him to shows prior to Gettman getting a driver’s license. The parents never denied a booking because it was a school night or because it was at a bar.
“It just all kind of ended up working out,” Gettman says.”As it happened, they just let it happen.”
Gettman says part of his young age did work in his advantage in getting attention, but it can also work against him in a “he’s good for his age” sort of way. Gettman says now it’s not even necessary, because by the start of 2012, he will have graduated a semester early from Westside High School.
Now he wants people to see him play because they want to hear the music, not because he’s some youth sensation.
“I recently turned 18, so now they can’t call me a kid.”
Mitch Gettman with The Big Deep and Snake Island! play Friday, Dec. 16th at the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St., at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7 at the door and include a copy of Gettman’s new CD. For more information, visit theslowdown.com.