It was Sunday night on a hot, humid NYC evening and the city was hopping with Labor Day weekend energy. As I was strolling home, I bumped into a good friend who runs the Friday night West Park Open Mic on 86th and Amsterdam. After catching up a bit, I mentioned to him how tomorrow I was thrilled to be playing my first show at Rockwood Music Hall and especially excited to be gigging with a full band. He told me how glad he was to hear I was finally performing with a band and told me that as the producer of his Friday Open Mic he has seen far too many songwriters with so much talent, that he often wants to yell out to them to “Get a f***ing band already!”
It’s actually not an insult in any way, he clarified. He goes on to tell me about how he has seen so many talented performers, singer-songwriters on guitar or piano, who are incredible, but he wonders how far they can really get with only their voice, their songs, and their instrument. It truly brings up a great point: how far can a singer-songwriter get on their own? Is it perhaps time for you to get a band?
To quote a song by my singer-songwriter friend David Pollack:
“Well you won’t get too far on acoustic guitar trying to make a stand….. ”
After living and gigging in NYC as a singer-songwriter for almost nine months, I began to feel I was hitting a wall and that the best next step for me was indeed to get a f***ing band!
WHAT A BAND CAN DO FOR YOU:
- It is one of the most exciting experiences to hear your stripped down acoustic versions of songs played with additional instruments. In some ways, it is like a dream come true. All the instruments and parts you were hearing when writing your song are now realized out loud and it is very exciting. Don’t be scared to sing parts to the other musicians that you had in mind.
- You have no idea the potential of your songs until you hear them played by a full band.
- A full band can CHANGE your songs and make them go in a direction you had never even thought about.
- Your band members may have incredible input to give you. Of course you have wonderful creative ideas of your own, but having other band members to chime in on your songs, and give their ideas of structure, adding parts, taking away parts, removing instruments, adding instruments, slowing down the tempo, changing the overall rhythm and groove can be a very productive and affecting way to make your music even better. Make sure to be open minded because your band members may have great ideas that you never thought of!
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR NEW BAND MEMBERS
Choose band members you genuinely like as people. The music business is hard enough that you don’t have time to argue and have clashing personalities in something as important as your band. Find people with positive energy who you really get along with.
Choose band members you feel really dig your music. Does the piano player you are working with not seem that into your tunes? I say it is best to find yourself another person to play the keys.
Make sure your band members are hard working and have the time to put in the work. Is one of your band members ridiculously talented but so talented that they are already part of a million projects? In this case, the most talented player may not be your best bet. Someone slightly less talented who has the time to rehearse and be dedicated to your band may be a better choice.
Find band members who are reliable. Showing up truly is half the battle. It is so helpful to have band members that show up on time and are really present in rehearsals. It makes you feel like they respect you and are happy to be there.
HOW TO FIND BAND MEMBERS
One option is to pay musicians to rehearse and play live shows with you. For some, hiring musicians is just not affordable but do not worry, there are still ways to get a band. Going out is crucial. You have to go out and hit the streets.
Open Mics are amazing ways to meet other musicians who may be at a similar place as you in your career and our looking for their own musicians to work with. We may want to return to the same open mic a few times so that people start to recognize you.
Play your own solo gigs:
Here is where you get to shine and where people get to see what you have to say. Make sure to always perform your best material in a consistency good way.
Make sure to choose open mics that are similar to your genre of music or are your type of scene:
If you are a jazz singer, it may not be the best idea to go to a mainly indie/rock oriented type of open mic. It is hard to know at first which open mic specializes in what style, so just stay patient and enjoy the process of discovering.
Jam sessions have ridiculous amounts of talented musicians:
Jazz jams tend to host some of the most incredible talent you can find. Even if you are a singer, it is good to go to primarily instrumental jams to meet instrumentalists who just might be looking for a singer to work with. Make sure to be a part of as many projects as you can and eventually you will find the people who dig your music, dig who you are, and who want to be a part of YOUR band.
Now, go on out there, and find yourself a f***ing band!
I feel blessed to have found my band, and look forward to this next chapter and all the good times ahead. xoxo
If you have any questions or are looking for more advice on how to find your band, please leave a comment below 🙂