Being Where You're Needed Musically - Your Stories

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by BrewsterRooster, Oct 20, 2016.

  1. I'll start with a story of something sort of neat that happened out of the blue. My regular band has morphed a lot over the years - members in, members out, large configurations, small configurations. I joined up about a year ago and we've plugged in about 90 dates this year as a band. The two founding members do a lot of extra duo stuff during the week as this is the lead singer's bread and butter. She used to be a working stiff like so many of us, but decided one day to bank all her fortunes on music. So she dumped the day job and went for it. She makes a suitable living, maintains a nice home, provides for herself and her boys, and works bookings like nobody I've ever known. She's one of these who is so looped in to the area scene, I could literally call her up and say I needed an extra $100 by tomorrow morning...she'd land a gig tonight at the snap of her fingers. (I have never made this request, but just saying. She's that good.)

    Since I've been on board, there have been two personnel cutbacks, and another multi-instrumentalist with a diva complex was replaced last winter by a veritable phenom of a guitarist. He comes complete with a long list of pro credits, has played around the world with plenty of high-profile acts, yet somehow chose to affiliate with us as his mainstay local group. We are now settled nicely into a five piece configuration and the chemistry just works on all levels, musical and personal. When we go out of town for a gig, the after-show hang with a few adult beverages - preferably around some quiet hotel pool - is as much a highlight as the opportunity to play. Rehearsals are equal parts work and fellowship. We all enjoy each other as people, and that's an attribute I place a big premium on. I'm just 48 years young, but during my first couple decades of playing bass, I learned all I needed to about being in groups with incompatible personalities. In this case, it turns out I'm in a group of nicely balanced personalities that also happens to be a deep talent pool. Nothing in life is forever, so I make a point of enjoying it in the now. I don't realistically expect to find this level of comfort and musicality in a group again.

    Anyhow, the primary guitarist is still called to travel and do some bigger things from time to time. And, as with most any working band, we have a solid sub list. The guitarists that have covered for him are all excellent players - one is a "jazzabilly" type (I don't know how else to describe this style, but it's remarkable) who had recorded with Roger Miller years ago, another is a well-traveled session player, and a third is a heavily blues-inspired type who also comes with a pretty extensive credits list. He's equally at home on a National resonator, an open-tuned acoustic with a slide, or his surf green '59 Strat that sounds utterly amazing. So last night, the rhythm player called and suggested we get together for our version of a rehearsal, which is always a mostly acoustic affair. I usually bring a small practice amp and a bass, but the guitarists will often just play their electrics unplugged. This turned out a little different. Our first-string sub was there instead of the regular guitarist, along with myself, our usual rhythm player, and our singer gal. The guitarist wanted me on second guitar because I'm a fingerpicker. I'm not a lead player by any stretch, but I can form any common-use chord and most jazz chords in several positions, and I also really enjoy folksy fingerwork on acoustic. So then our rhythm player drags in with an upright bass, his weapon of choice from his days as a blues and rockabilly guy. He's a plank-spanker from way back, and is also good at dropping nice solid lines under just about any other roots music style. Our singer mixed us all some adult beverages and we proceeded to kick out acoustic renditions of everything from Nina Simone and Roberta Flack to Allmans, Doobies, Ray Charles, and greasy old blues stuff straight out of the 1930s. Being surrounded by all these acoustic sounds, not to mention singing harmonies (which I don't usually do) plus swapping roles with my rhythm player took a familiar group of people into very unfamiliar territory - and it was a rush. I'm sure I just got high on the novelty of it all; regardless, we all agreed that this thing could and should be gigged. We're looking at it as an alternative configuration and format for when the primary guitarist isn't available, but it could also lend itself nicely to a variety of venues that the main incarnation of the group usually wouldn't play. The main band's repertoire and sound is heavily steeped in 60s - 90s pop, soul, blues, and Motown with some Americana, country, alt-rock and even gospel tunes tucked away for when they're needed. This acoustic thing would overlay with that to some degree, though I also hear loads of folksy and roots music potential.

    In a very unlikely way, I feel I'm at an incredibly unique place musically. The stars align, and suddenly the players I'm affiliated with just seem to snap together like puzzle pieces. It's comfortable and exciting, like the culmination of some personal calling that (unlike so many other facets of life) just happened to go right. Again I say that nothing is forever, and what little wisdom I've gained along the way dissuades me from making anything out to be more than what it is, but it sure is neat to be in a place musically that I almost feel like I spent over four decades being "customized" for.

    There's no deeper meaning to this posting - pretty much just storytelling - though I do hope to inspire some good tomes from the TB community about that feeling of "being where you're needed" musically. I'm embarking on the experience right now, and it's all good. I'd like to hear about yours. Maybe we can all jump in and encourage each other with good vibes and the positive stories we've gathered from our musical journeys.

    Just a thought...:thumbsup:
  2. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Great to hear you have such a great band with some awesome players. I think most of us here wish for success like yours and your story is encouraging.
    For me the last year has been very challenging musically. I had one great band for 5 years and saddly it had to end. Since then it's been a roller coaster. I hope to land a band I can get a good hang with soon.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2016
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  3. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    Congrats on your band. Rare to find. Be sure and get pics/ videos so you watch them when you're in the elderly generation.
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  4. Good stuff Brewster. We have some great players in our band -Bass and Lead come to mind. I can sing some songs really well and fake others pretty good ;)
    We get along alright some of our guys are SUPER political though and just wont let stuff go. Me i keep politics and religion out of my daily dealings and don' usually say anything keep quiet when people go on big political rants but it is funny to me internally a bit :)
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  5. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    It sounds like you and the others are top notch musicians -- things go well when talented people get together. It puts the band in flow. I am also glad you have a healthy skepticism about the whole thing too -- which is the wisdom that comes with experience.

    For me personally, things took a turn for the better when surprisingly, a guitar player tried to kick me out of the band I started. That, taken with musicians who lacked any semblance of loyalty to the group I started, joined five bands, and then relegated me to rehearsing new subs, were actually the variables that propelled me into my happy place right now.

    I have four different bands, and 30 musicians on which to call when I want to. I expect no loyalty from anyone, standardized a repertoire across musicians who I can call when I need them (without rehearsal), took the bands by the balls and walk a fine line between between being a laissez faire democratic leader and an autocrat. So far it works very well. My schedule is full, I have no drama WHATSOEVER, and the guitar player who tried to fire me, and took some key musicians, can't seem to scrape up any gigs beyond low-paying restaurant work.

    Add to that, some of the musicians I found proved to be very open-minded, so I was able to form an originals band that surprisingly, is quite busy right now. And I front it with a piccolo bass on the majority of original tunes we do. Happy, Happy, Happy. The musicians also seem to be very positive about my leadership, judging by their text messages and complements, and sometimes, the way they tease me about different stuff (in a likeable way). Comments like "this is my favorite cover band", or "I enjoy playing with you" or "Keep pumping out more originals", or "I had an ear worm on two of those tunes you wrote", "I want to thank you for how concerned you are about my development as a musician".

    So, often, these traumatic experiences where there is fallout from an existing band can be the conduit for even better experiences.
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  6. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Congrats. I'm on the other side of the fence - some really good players, but not enough chances to play good paying gigs with challenging music, so climbing out of a hole. Enjoy it while you can (hopefully for a while).
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  7. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    That's the way my Western Swing band works-a core of players, some of whom have been in the band since its founding 22 years ago and a solid sub list. Three rehearsals in 22 years-that gives an idea of the caliber of players involved.
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  8. Things can go bad in a hurry talking politics or are wise! A near and dear guitarist buddy and former co-worker of mine (not in the band) is a staunch political extremist, and he cracks me up with all the texts and emails he'll send me trying to discredit "the other side." I rarely even respond, and if I do, I just make jokes. Then he locked on to my rhythm guitarist, who is pretty much the political polar opposite, and started dogging him with all the same emails and texts. They were heard after a recent show having a bit of a "debate" - and both are mature enough to know when to walk away from the conversation and laugh it off, so no issue there - but it sure is amusing to watch otherwise sensible people getting loud over the subject!

    That was a great read and an even greater success story. I love it! There's a lot to be said for dusting oneself off and carving one's own niche when the time is right. And your last sentence is slap on-point.

    Yes, it does. It also sounds like a band I'd enjoy hearing sometime!

    Thanks for all the narratives. Sometimes on internet forums it's easiest and quickest to relate to content with more drama, or vitriol, or a funny faux pas or whatever, but I find it inspirational to read people's success stories, too.
  9. Kragnorak


    Sep 20, 2008
    Great story, and you're an excellent writer; thanks for the update. Next step: record something that we can buy or at least check out on SoundCloud!

    I have to say that unfortunately I don't feel like I'm where I should be right now. I'm playing either fulltime or parttime with some great groups, but I've had that magical combination of hang and matching musical sensibilities in the past and I don't really have that right now. One solution would be to step up and be a band leader but I don't even have in mind who would be the right cohorts in my area right now.

    I have been there in the past and it set the bar high. I had a circle of friends that could either improvise or play set parts, that could be inspired by Buckethead or John Zorn or Jimi Hendrix or Miles Davis or Carcass or Eddie Hazel and come out the other side with a great fusion of ideas played with musicality. And then we could hang afterwords. I don't have that right now, and it's rather frustrating.

    Especially lately; when I'm listening to extreme music on the radio now, and I hear that progressive music is having a bit of a resurgence right now: Dillinger Escape Plan and Candiria are putting out some great new music (Dillinger especially has improved drastically I think in their writing) with ramped-up jazz content, and the likes of Fallujah and Between the Buried and Me and ne Obliviscaris are getting away with putting out 16 minute epic pieces that get airplay.... Well, I get frustrated that I don't have a group right now where I can suggest covering one of these new tunes and then writing a couple similarly ambitious pieces on our own. And there is an issue where many of the musicians that I was comfortable moved to different states in the U.S., while those that are nearby are comfortable with worked-out music but not so comfortable with improvisation or even jamming on a couple riffs. (Improv seems to be a dying art lately)

    I don't know what else to say. I'm optimistic that the peeps I need are out there. The real problem is that I need to step foot in more scenes and whatnot.
    BrewsterRooster likes this.
  10. Love your story. Also love your enthusiasm to create. A lot of players seem to be content with rendering as opposed to inventing - I see that around here, too, and I don't think it's an isolated phenomenon. What I've found in this area is that the most creative, originals-inclined players are the least visible. They're selective about the jams they attend (if they ever do at all), and they're very picky about the other players they associate with. More of a generalization than a hard and fast rule, but yeah - I can see it. Not sure why that's the case.

    To your statement about Soundcloud: one day, out of curiosity, I asked my band if anybody had original stuff. One of our members is well-recorded and has a solo album available commercially, but to my surprise two of the other three said they did have stuff they'd written. I do, myself, even though I don't consider any of it to be stylistically relevant to this band. Regardless, the potential is there. If we ever do anything with them, you bet they'll be available in some format.
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  11. jerry

    jerry Too old for a hiptrip Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    Musicianship is like water, it eventually seeks its own level, it sounds like you found a great level.
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