Working with singer/songwriters

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by BassXgirl, Oct 4, 2003.

  1. Hi everyone : ) This is my first post here and i would really appreciate any and all opinions.

    I have been playing for a singer/songwriter for about a year now. We started out as being good friends. She had no performance or band experience and together we put a band together and started playing shows.

    The problem is this: She has been getting attention from a couple of very so called "prominant" producers here in LA. She recorded a demo with one producer without me or any other members of the band. She HIRED people. The band got a little angry about this and confronted her. We asked her why. She said she didnt know what to do because they were brought in by the producer. She then promised that we (her band) would record the next time she was in the studio. Last night i found out that she did it again. She recorded with completely different musicians.

    This is my first time playing in a singer/songwriter situation and im not sure how i should feel about her using other players after we (her band) have given up so much of ourselves to support her and help structure her songs. We practice and work hard for this band and it seems like maybe she should at least TELL us that shes going in the studio? I dunno.

    Please share your opiinions on this? Im ready to quit her band but im just not sure if thats the right thing or not. Am i being too sensitive about this?

    P.S although im no Jaco, i have been playing bass for about 17 years and i dont think its my playing that prevents her from having me in the studio. Im so confused! Please help!
  2. Singer/Song Writer[/B]

    There is an old saying that comes to mind.
    "Shame me once, shame on you. Shame me twice shame on me".
    It seems like you only have two choices. One is to keep her in the band and keep playing for as long as it lasts until she leaves. The second is to get a new singer. It is quite apparent that she doesn't think of herself as a member of your band if it stands in the way of her personal career.
    Remember, just like there is always other musicans, there is always another singer.
  3. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    I've backed a few singer/songwriters in my day, (please note you've been playing almost as long as I've been alive), and I think I figured out this:

    If you are playing with a singer/songwriter, there is no "band". The bassist, drummer, vibrophonist; they're just backing. The very phrase singer/songwriter just screams Solo Artist.

    If it was truly a band, you wouldn't call the frontperson a singer/songrwriter. They would just be part of the band. ;)

    I am going to assume that because of the way your friend is being presented, as the stereotypical singer/songwriter type, the producer doesn't give a rat's ass about "the band" she has played with. He's probably done singer/songwriters a hundred times before, and the ONLY thing he is worried about is them. That's just the genre, I think.

    So I definitely wouldn't blame your friend. Most likely it wasn't her choice. I'm sure part of what producers study in Producer School is how to get exactly what they want and no more. Who's more reliable in their eyes- a studio ace who has done this hundreds of times, or the possible headache of a schlub band that is hanging out with the goldmine in front of him? He doesn't know if you and the drummer have done any studio work, are reliable, can hold a rhythm: He doesn't care. He doesn't give a rat's ass about friendship, he just wants to market your friend. That is, however, his job. You've got a doe-eyed artist who (gasp) has someone that is interested in publishing their act- it's easy to say "let's have you pop in the studio for some scratch tracks, oh, sure, I've got some guys here, don't bother calling your buddies, we're just laying down some quick material", and in the whirlwind of activity, the artist will most likely go along with anything the producer says.

    Every time I've played with a singer/songwriter, even though they were close friends of mine, and we played out and even traveled a bit, every party involved knew that the band was freelancing it. But I don't know the nature of your friendship, or how things have been presented in the past. Unless it really seems like your friend is giving you the cold shoulder (i.e., acting all hot to trot, not returning phone calls, telling the band they've been holding her back), I would guess it was just a slick producer getting what he wanted from an artist he would like to tap in to.

    Perhaps it would be best to confront the artist, and ask what your role and the rest of the band's will be. If you can, get it from the producer's mouth to, as she may say she wants you around, and the producer might do otherwise. The sticky wicket is that no matter what your friend wants to do, more than likely the producer will get his way.
    coilcbl_RT likes this.
  4. Thanks guys...
    Yeah i try to give this girl the benefit of the doubt. Shes never been in a band sit before and i know these producers have been very controlling with how the sessions go.

    I figure i will just get out of this experience with whatever i can for the moment. I will be going (hopefully) to New York in Nov to play some shows over there with her. I'll be happy for that opportunity. Im just gonna play it by ear *pun intended* and see where this road goes a little longer.

  5. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone.

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    There are plenty of singer/song writer/solo artists that use studio musicians/session players for recording, but then hire a totally different group of musicians for live performances and touring.
  6. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I'd chalk it up to inexperience on your friend's part - she's likely feeling a bit intimidated by the producer and will take any advice he gives, no matter what it might be.

    Mr. Producer probably wanted to bring in his own set of studio guys who he knew could get the job done in one or two takes. Not to say that you can't, but unfortunately Mr. Producer doesn't know you... Perhaps your friend didn't tell you because she didn't want to have to tell you that Mr. Producer had insisted on using someone else?

    Having been in similar situations before, my suggestion would be to quit that band. You'll be much happier if you're playing with people at your own experience level.
  7. Moxa13


    Apr 14, 2003
    I have been in this same types of situation, and I have to agree with everything that has been said. Our lead vocalist writes 90% of the material, and she was being approached by a manager/producer. Who wanted her and not "us". She did not sign up with him afterwards. This happens a lot in bands. Many famous artist had to dump the band that got them where they were, in order to get on a major label. Examples being Stevie Knicks and Lindsey Buckingham, Eddie Brickel (sp?), and the late Janis Joplin. Unless you are a person writing the music, the producer is likely going to try to push you out. Sad but true. My advice would be that if she signs with these producers. You are not going to be playing on her albums. That is the way of this business. I would entertain other options.
  8. vegaas


    Nov 6, 2001
    This kind of thing really aggrevates me. I most bands I have been in, the singer writes the lyrics, the rest of the band writes the music. For whatever reason the vocals and lyrics seem to be the most important area to producers.
    I just saw an ad at from a talent agent saying he is looking for a singer/songwriter to promote. He says he has connections and is looking for the next Britany, Sheryl or Gwen.
    Ok, first, I dont believe the guy. But; even he is legit, doesnt he realize that Gwen is in a band!
    Very frustrating.
  9. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    An alarm went off for me when you wrote "she HIRED people" to play on these studio demo sessions...

    If these
    "prominent producers" thought enough of her to foot the bill, I could understand the temptation to do it, but she still should have told you guys that it was too tempting to pass up. Instead, I'm making the assumption that these folks promised her the moon, and got HER to pay for the musicians and studio time... in which case she's an opportunistic little &*%$ and you should know that you are merely a stepping stone to her...

    Obviously I'm making a number of assumptions here -- but if I'm correct in the assumptions of fact, I stand by my judgement of her character and motivations... hope I'm wrong, for your sake...

    coilcbl_RT likes this.
  10. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I've not been in this situation myself - although I have just joined a band to back a singer/songwriter...
    One of the questions I asked was "what if the label wants you but not the band?" - she replied that it wasnt going to happen because she wasnt going to have a weak link in the band and that she wanted to get a deal as a band, not as a singer/songwriter. She specifically doesnt want to do the singer/songwriter + producer thing.
    Which I must say I respect - IMO it is much more credible, but if faced with a deal, things change and I understand that.

    So, personally, I'd expect her to take the deal if we were forced out of the equation by a label/producer, but at the same time I would kind of want back payment for all the hours I will be putting in helping her get signed... but being realistic that wouldn't gonna happen in a zillion years! :D

    My advice would be to get her on her own and discuss this with her. It sounds like she doesnt give a rats ar~e about the band - and faced with a possible record deal or something, I cant say I blame her really. Being truthful, I'm not sure how I'd act in that situation?

    The main thing I think you should watch out for is that if she "makes it" without you - you get recognition for any input in the songwriting?

    If the band helped form the strcuture of her songs, had input on melodies, chords, changes, harmonies etc then you are co-writers and deserve credits for it should she get a deal.

    I know money's not the be all and end all, but the last thing you want is to see her on TV making a mint out of songs you helped write shortly before she dropped you!

    You need to get all your worries out in the open and to suss out her intentions - then if you dont like what you hear, you do the off, quick sharpish! :)
  11. ColonelZulu

    ColonelZulu Not Impressed By Those Who Flaunt “Authority” Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    My position on this...I've been on the other side of the situation.

    Very often, the best studio musicians available are not going to be suitable for a band.

    If a record company is footing the recording bill, and they want session pros to do the work, that's up to them.

    It's pretty uncommon that the guys who do the session work are the ones a solo artist will take out on the road. Frequently, they don't fit the "image" for the artist to portray (too old, fat, ugly, unhip, etc).

    I've recorded more demos for soloists around here than just about anything I've done. I must have done at least a track on a dozen or more in the last 3 years. It keeps me busy.

    However, I have a career, family, other responsibilities, that make me unsuitable to play out twice a week up and down the MidAtlantic or whatever.

    So if she does make it big, there's still a chance you'll be up there with her on TRL playing air-bass over someone else's tracks.

    Cool, huh?!?!?!
  12. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    a very good point, zulu. very true indeed.

    although, the singer chick definitley needs to let everyone know where they stand - so they can make the decision of whether they want to be involved or not.

    ...not too sure about "air bass" though? :meh:

    Put it this way, I wont be miming anything. I'm a bassist not a friggin pop idol!
  13. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Good point Zulu, but I think the real issue here is that she's not being straight with her band about what's going on. I'd agree that the band's expectations of being included at every step may be unrealistic -- but the fact that she has used studio players twice without telling the band, the second time after "promising" to do otherwise, indicates to me that she lacks the courage/maturity/whatever to put the truth of the matter on the table with the band. Sure, she may be under a lot of pressure to juggle loyalties and self interest, but her band deserves honesty from her, at the very least, in return for the work they've done to support her music...

    As always, just my 2¢...

  14. I understand and would actually be OK with being the 'live gig bassist'. The problem i have with her is that the guitar player and I have evolved into more than just live gig players. We have given her many ideas that have changed the songs considerably (IMHO) We've changed the rhythms, structures, feel, of alot of her songs. We basically work the same as in any other BAND ive been in. That is to say, we ALL contribute something. Every band ive been in seems to have one center person who does the bulk of the writing while the other members of the band contribute. We do the same in this band. The only difference is that we dont have a BAND name. We are always listed as HER name...a solo artist.

    Im at the point now where i don't even want to come up with interesting basslines to her songs for fear that 1. she will have some hired gun play something different anyway leaving all my efforts to the trash and 2. My basslines may or may not change the song into something completly different but without me getting any credit for it.

    Its a dilema. I have talked with her about this before and she just doesnt seem to get it. She says she doesnt even hear the bass. Not that its not audible, but because bass just isnt important to her *gasp*!

    Bass makes my world go 'round.

    P.S. We don't get paid for any of this. We are not HIRED to play shows, we just do it. Maybe we should have her start paying us for gigs? Hhhmmmm........:smug:
    coilcbl_RT likes this.
  15. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    This should tell you all you need to know...

    Who wants to be in a band where they aren't appreciated? That's a pretty low blow, IMO.
  16. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    You and the singer are friends, correct?

    Believe me, if you don't leave now, you won't be friends for very much longer, if that is the way she treats you in a band context.
  17. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    OK, first things first:

    Managers, producers and record labels are interested in HER, not her band. If they offer any contracts they will be for HER not the band.

    The producer is making a really common decision, take the performer and surround her with seasoned studio pros to insure a good quality product. Why mess with her live band who might not be able to deliver the goods in the studio?

    Now that you understand what the situation is, you have to decide if you would rather continue to work with her live or quit because you feel she is not supporting the band. I've been in the same situation and to be honest, I don't care if I get shut out of the studio. I'm more concerned about being shut out of the gigs (that's happened, too).
  18. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The press ignores everyone but Gwen Stefani, as does the public.

    I'm sure that if the rest of the band suddenly died in a bizarre gardening accident, she could have a lucrative solo career.
  19. I hear Gwen is actually working on a solo project right now.

    Thanks, i guess ive stuck around for the gigs. I love playing live and we have been playing some fun gigs. Theres also a little part of me holding out hope that i can turn someone on to bass. I mean HOW in the *bleep* can someone NOT appreciate bass!? Seriously.....
    coilcbl_RT likes this.
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