It’s a tall order when it comes to keeping your band together and happy, and I have had a wealth of these experiences to draw upon, to say the least! Certainly, there are many situations that can arise, under many different circumstances with bands, and it has so much to do with the actual situation at hand, and of course, above all, the people!
I can remember starting bands innocently enough with folks who all came from many different places, just to create a new musical entity, only to have it all ruined by one member, who really just wanted the band to be his and his alone. I’m certainly all for a group having a leader, they all do, but this was a band with 5 members, all of whom were very young, and all who had so much to contribute, yet it was all immediately squelched by this one greedy member. It certainly would’ve been better if he at least had let us know in advance about his intentions, so we wouldn’t all had to have changed our lives for this group that only lasted like 2 months! Needless to say, this situation resulted in a completely unhappy band scenario right from the get-go, and taught me what to be wary of right at the early stages of my career.
Still though, it really doesn’t matter, because each situation is so unique with bands that you just never know what you will end up with. After this initial quasi-“Democratic” approach to that band, I was thrust into the world of being a sideman with many artists, and being a sideman with a lot of my own very strong opinions about things. This of course meant I had to know when it was a good time to make my suggestions, and when it was not a good time. Each performer I worked with, and of course the other band members too, created a different chemistry with which to work with, and many times it was very sensitive, to say the least!
The problems and navigation of being a sideman is one thing, but to keep your own band happy when you are the front man as a “solo” act is a whole different story! These days, since the gig is really “mine”, and I like to keep that camaraderie and “band” feeling, it’s very important to make each member feel as if they are really contributing to the final outcome of the music. This is always critical, and was something that I learned a lot when being a sideman, as well as just in life in general. It’s so important to make all the band members feel as if what they say matters, and also, if they are so inclined, to give them room to play and to take solos, if necessary. It should never be at the cost of the final outcome of the music, but still they will really appreciate it always if you let them participate in solos and jams with you. I always make sure my rhythm players gets to trade off with me, as well as letting my bassist and drummer take solos, if they’d like to!
So the lesson is to really always be aware of each other, and each other’s needs in any band situation, and you can surely achieve the kind of harmony we all strive to attain as musicians in this crazy world. Maybe at least there can be peace and harmony in your band…it’s a good start!