flying solo


As much as I enjoy playing with other musicians, there are drawbacks. With them I am obliged to stick to material they are familiar with. Either that, or in the absence of rehearsal time, with standard, predictable structures….12 bar blues, etc. There is a lot of detail that gets lost when a song is performed on the fly. Quite often it is this detail that makes the difference between just another song and something unique.

Also, it is important all the players are happy, or the results wont be either. So compromises prevail.

Playing on my own, I am free to play what I like, and concentrate on my performance. I have no trouble hearing my voice or my instrument, and I can adjust the tempo, the key, or the arrangement to suit the moment.

It is also more of a challenge. A song is reduced to its elemental parts. The intimate, evolving relationship between voice and guitar stands or falls on its own merits, without props. Fluffed notes have nowhere to hide.

Last night I played a gig at a small pub, my first solo gig in several weeks. The weather turned damp and uninviting by early evening, so there were not many people there. However, with the help of those who were, I had a great time.

Playing in a pub is far from a concert situation. One cant expect rapt attention, and you are certainly not the only one making a noise. Your sublime performance may well be met with supreme indifference. When you are noticed, it owes as much to whether someone’s companion has gone to the toilet, as it does to your magnificence. Generally though, as the drinks are drained and refilled, your efforts will be recognised at least some of the time.

I began by explaining to the small gathering how grateful I was they had made it, despite the rain. No further effort was required of them, other than enjoying their drinks and conversation. I would be providing a soundtrack for the evening which I hoped would help the drinks go down.

They turned out to be a most appreciative audience. They listened as they spoke to each other, tapped their feet, nodded along, and applauded at the end of each song. I played one song after another that I felt like singing, and enjoyed every one of them. Coins found their way into the tip jar, the evening ended, and we all went home glowing with contentment.

Show business? Hardly. Just music, alive and well, taking its place alongside life’s many pleasures. Which works just fine for me.

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