To be two or not to be two

ham to let

“Gottle of gear! Gottle of gear!”

Where was I? Oh yes, the pros and cons of being solo versus being in a duo or band. I’ve been ruminating over this for the past few days, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s far too many pros and cons and I shouldn’t have promised to list them all. But I’ll start and see how far I get before one of us gets bored.

One thing I have noticed is that all the duos and bands I’ve been in have come to an end sooner or later. Some have never even reached the stage of playing a debut gig – a bit like going out with a girl but never getting beyond first base. Others have dragged on for far too long – a bit like carrying on going out with a girl long after having hit a record number of home runs and retiring from the game of baseball altogether…

If you see what I mean.

Conversely, one of the good things about being a solo artist is that you rarely – if ever – fall out with yourself over who’s turn is it to drive or how many songs you get to sing or how to split the gig fee. Oh yes, there have been times when I’ve been annoyed with myself and maybe had a harsh word, but I’ve never been one to let things simmer or go to bed on an argument. And it’s all forgiven and forgotten the next day.

Another good thing about being solo is that I get to choose the songs I play: in a band, the set list is always a compromise – “I’ll play your Enter Sandman if you play my Back For Good“. The downside of getting to choose the songs is that I can never decide on a set list, so end up sitting in front of the audience frantically flicking through my songbooks trying to find a song to play. These days, people think it’s just part of the act.

the snags

Whatever happened to The Snags?

On the subject of choice, if you’re in a band or duo you tend to have a finite list of songs that you can play from gig to gig. In my time in The Snags with Sofi Nieto, for instance, we amassed 50-60 songs from which to draw a couple of sets, which meant we could vary our set to a degree, but would no doubt be playing a lot of the same songs gig to gig. Playing solo, I’ve got around 500 songs to draw from, all of which I can play equally well/badly. Consequently, the chances of me playing the same set twice are infinitesimal. Which I’m sure you’ll agree is quite small.

One thing I do miss when playing solo is the opportunity to do vocal harmonies. I’ve always loved a nice vocal harmony: when I was young (so much younger than today) me and my little sisters used to sing along to the likes of the BeatlesSimon and Garfunkel and the Everly Brothers. Even though none of us was particularly musical at the time (some might say – rather cruelly – that nothing much has changed), we would sing the harmonies that we heard these artists do. Some kids sat in the back of their dad’s VW and counted red cars; we sang along to the Everly Brothers.

Do you remember that I said I’d stop when I got bored?

3 thoughts on “To be two or not to be two

  1. For me, being a drummer, there is no choice; I either play in a group or not at all. After all, who wants to see a drummer knock the shit out of his drums for 90 minutes? Certainly not me.

    If you’re a singer type, then you have the best of both worlds, when you want it. Sing solo, or with a full band. You have the choice of choosing whether to collaborate – or not.

    As it stands, collaboration will always bring conflict at some point – or else your name is Sting, post-Police era and you are hiring & firing the hired hands in your dictatorship. But conflict isn’t always bad; in fact, it can be the pivotal moment in a bands career when the melting pot gets heated to boiling and you come up with something so fresh and new, it goes on to sell millions worldwide – a bit like The Police….

    You have the luxury to choose work as one or as a collective when you go on stage, whilst the likes of me doesn’t have that luxury and must wait for the crumbs to be passed down from the top table and be invited to join the feast.

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