As many of us know, a big ego can really get in the way of good working relationships within a band situation. This can go for a band member, being a sideman, or even the headliner frontman!
I have seen it all, for sure, and there were many times that what could have been a nice, long-term musical project ended up being cut short by an overblown ego getting in the way of real progress.
When I first moved to Woodstock in 1971, I was a young and impressionable kid of 18 who was eager to join a new band that was being put together. This bass player from there was putting it all together, and I was one of 5 band members, all of whom were coming there just for this sole purpose. We all had to find rental apartments or houses, and we all put the rest of our lives “on hold” for this new and exciting project. I can honestly say that “going in” we were all optimistic about the fact that we were all to be a part of the democratic process of this band, and that our music would all carry equal weight.
Well, sure enough, only a couple of weeks into this band’s creation, this guy who put it all together started to really show how he wanted to be not only the leader, but it was his music and only his music that he would even entertain us performing and / or recording. Well, I can tell you that this broke this band up faster than you could say “Jack Robinson”, and it amazed me! So, there I was, left with 10 months on my lease, not able to drive yet, not really knowing anyone in Woodstock, and all alone with a broken-up band. It wasn’t long before I started getting other decent sideman work, but what it really sent me into was a dark period where I had to return to the Bronx, and play for a couple of years with a real “nothing” cover band, which allowed me to play three of my original songs, mixed into the set. We played a lot of awful gigs, and the fact that I had a good taste of the “real” music business made this kind of gig even harder to stomach. But, still I did it, and was able to keep my own ego in check enough so I could at least get the most out of that experience!
The guy who broke up that first band ended up in many future bands and backup gigs along with me, ad he never learned….his ego and terrible way of looking at the business kept on dooming everything he was a part of, even though I kept giving him work. He got so bad, that for a long time now, he has been completely out of the business all together.
In the end, it seemed like he didn’t have the fortitude to withstand rejection, and therefore always tried to keep up this “tough” exterior to hide that fact. But whenever he did feel rejected within the business, he would drop out of it, and go into a kind of “hiding.” This was his protective mechanism, but in actuality, it had him always losing the momentum that is so important when it comes to developing a good career. Instead, he was viewed as volatile, angry and extremely unpredictable.
So, the best thing, especially while starting out, is to put that ego aside, and know what is best for you and the other players around you. In the long run, it will teach you so much, and your future career will thank you for it. Take it from me!