Sometimes it’s nice to go back and see what you’ve done with fresh eyes – to take stock in your personal accomplishments. Some people take it too far and live in the narcissistic world of HOOF, like The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, but for the rest of us, I think it’s healthy to waft a little of our own brand up toward our middle face holes and check it out. This post will feature that from me. Samples of my contributions to the Harmony Central Forums – specifically the “Backstage With The Band” forum. I’m going to put in a few posts I thought were good not only for the topic we were discussing, but as general information. So here we go…
January 10, 2008:
This is probably going to piss some people off, but here’s my comment:
I think if you can’t muster up the passion to make a bad song rock, you’re not doing your job as a performer. You’re half-assed.
I admit, it’s really hard to do, and it takes some serious acting at times, but suck it up.
Case in point: our band plays “I Love Rock & Roll” – one of my least favorite songs EVER – and I pour my heart into that piece of shit every time I sing it, because I am a performer, and I am there to DELIVER the song. I usually announce it as “this is my favorite song ever recorded – on opposite day!” Which usually draws a few chuckles until we get it going and then they flock to the dance floor.
I did the same thing when we’d do Mustang Sally, which I agree is a much better song when Wilson Pickett does it. I made sure that no one rushed that bitch when we played it, because it takes all of the fun and the funk out of that song.
Anyway, if you’re in a cover band, and especially if you’re the lead singer, you have to sell every song, because that’s the only way the audience is coming along for the ride.
Back on topic, though, I’d say a best bet for your band (having listened to your original stuff) would be to focus on the fun stuff from the mid to late-60s – oldies that have always worked for the various bands I’ve been in are:
Twist and Shout
Get Ready (pretty much all Motown, actually)
Mustang Sally (and most Soul, too)
I’m A Believer
Classic rock songs that always worked:
Magic Carpet Ride
Sweet Home Alabama
Gimme Three Steps (Skynyrd usually works pretty well)
I Want You To Want Me
Rock & Roll All Nite
Hard To Handle usually gets people up, too.
All Right Now
We’d play Stray Cats stuff (Rock This Town, especially) because it sounded old and people would swing dance to it (which was funny) – Crazy Little Thing Called Love is like that, too.
There’s so much 60s-70s stuff out there that works. It just comes down to finding what you enjoy playing and tailoring the “winners” to that.
80s stuff seems to be what goes over best in the clubs my band plays, though. It’s that shifting bar demographic…and the fact that the Austin audiences tend to be a little younger than where I used to live (Jacksonville).
I would imagine it’s pretty mixed up there in Williamsport.
March 19, 2008 (Tips for playing bass and singing):
As a bassist who’s also a lead singer, but has done a ton of backing vocals in the various bands where I wasn’t lead singer, I can say that the most important thing I learned is to just keep doing it until you get it. It takes time.
I never thought I’d be able to sing the lead parts on “Super Freak”, “All Star”, “Higher Ground”, “This Love”, or “Superstition” and play the bass parts, but I can (some more accurately than others, of course).
There are some songs I simply can’t do, though, and those have been set aside (“Dance Dance”, “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”)
Here’s how I’ve done it in the past:
I get the bass line down and practice it until it’s second-nature.
Then, I listen intently to the vocal parts (in this case, backing) and where they come in. I listen to the song and practice those parts independently.
Then I play along with the song and sing the backing vocals when they’re there and see how much it affects what I’m doing on the bass.
Once I realize what phrases cause problems, I figure out whether I need to adjust what I’m playing or just muscle through it.
Once I decide what I’m going to do, I just play it over and over until it works together.
Band rehearsals help…and it helps a TON to have a singer who phrases things correctly and consistently so you can more easily be spot on with the harmonies and have it not confuse you or surprise you when you’re trying to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time (play and sing).
Best of luck. Hope that helps!
February 2, 2009 (on the topic of using music stands on stage):
I hear tons of whining from both pro and anti people here.
To which I say…whining is not rock and roll. So you can all shut the fuck up.
Rock and roll is about doing what you fucking want to do, and fuck anyone else.
If that means you have a stand or a teleprompter, so fucking be it.
If that means you hate stands and teleprompters, so fucking be it.
Everyone’s entitled to call bullshit on each other.
But whining about what other people do isn’t very rock and roll.
Wait, no, yes it is…but it’s that fruity, puffy rock and roll who cares about whether your leather jacket looks right or you like the right bands.
Fashion rock…which isn’t about the music.
Pathetic like me (because I use a stand).
April 24, 2009 (on the topic of jealous spouses):
This reminds me of a story. I was playing a gig at a place called Hurricane Hattie’s (some of the old-school Jacksonville folks might remember it), and I was talking to a very sweet, nice, and quite beautiful young lady who was there with her boyfriend. She was saying how great she thought I was and kind of fawning over me. Apparently that was way too much for the guy (who wasn’t even drunk). He yelled, “Dammit, Crystal, why don’t just just fuck him right here!” I politely pointed to my wedding ring, said, “Sorry, not interested, no offense…” and that diffused the situation. The guy looked like a complete asshole in front of a large portion of the people standing on the deck, because he was LOUD. And I got two things out of it: 1. A little validation for being good (and attractive, apparently) 2. A funny story that still gives me a chuckle when I think about it. BTW, on topic: My wife is very, very cool. Actually, all our wives are. They trust us. What a concept.
June 12, 2009 (a thread I started called “Why did you get into music?”):
I often have conversations with other musicians about how/why they got started, and I’ve seen in interviews many famous musicians talk about why they started doing music, and it’s almost universally answered “to impress girls” – which is incredibly cliche, but amazing to me how frequently it’s their motivation.I must be weird, because I got into music because I loved music. I didn’t care if girls liked me more if I could play guitar or sing – that thought NEVER EVEN CROSSED MY MIND! Music was always fascinating to me, even when I was little. Just the mechanics of making any musical instrument work just impressed me as much as LEGO. And I LOVED Lego.
But back to my initial motivations: I feel like an alien when I talk to other guys about it or hear famous, successful people talk about it, but I figured I’d pose the question here to see if there are any other weirdos brave enough to put themselves out there.
I got into music to make music. No desire to be famous, no desire to get girls, no desire to do anything but learn how to make things work and create some interesting noise. I know, I’m both weird and a big pussy, because even as perverted as I’ve always been, I never saw music as a path to female attention.
Then this part was in response to a guy who posted that anyone who said they didn’t get into music for girls was a liar:
This isn’t a direct shot at you, because I don’t know your motives, but I think only those who don’t really understand what it’s like for music to be a “calling” could say this without being facetious. I can’t NOT do music. It has NEVER had anything to do with gaining the interest of women, and especially not now that I’m married. I’m not even all that comfortable singing to the women in the crowd, which hurts me as a frontman for my band.
I still to this day have never consciously used music to win someone’s favor – ever. I did write one song for my wife as a birthday present, but I had already won her favor, so it was just expressing how much I appreciated our life together. (Yeah, I’m a sap sometimes)
Truthfully (and anyone who knew me then will attest to this) I was never even comfortable whipping out the acoustic at parties in college, when it was a guarantee that you’d get some serious female attention for it.
It’s almost like music is mine, and you can like what I do if you like – that’s great – but I really don’t give two shits whether it’ll make you like me more. In fact, I don’t want it to make you like me more. I’d rather be judged based on other things.
June 23, 2009 (on what I take to gigs as a backup):
I’ve gigged as both a bassist and guitarist, and I always take: – At least one extra guitar or bass, almost always with no fancy electronics (meaning a regular bass or guitar if I’ve got the Variax or an active bass). – An extra powered speaker that I almost never use and that stays in the car in the event of total failure. – I use a POD X3 Live as my main rig, so I have a PODxt bean with all the model packs installed as backup (so it backs up guitar AND bass easily and takes up almost no space). – extra cables of every type I use, and extra cable adapters of many types, as well as extra AC adapters for the Line 6 stuff – at least one extra set of strings for bass and guitar (usually D’Addario XLs because they’re cheap and they’re in those plastic bags that keep them fresh a long time) I almost never break strings. – a pile of extra 9v batteries for my wirelesses – an SM57 and a few Samson-branded SM58-type mics in case of catastrophe or if we need an extra mic (or one that drunk people will be handling). I often throw an extra boom mic stand in the car as well. You never know… I’ve considered upgrading to an X3 bean as a backup, but I’m not sure if I’m going to bother, since the X3 has never failed me, and I don’t want to spend $400 on something that’s just going to sit in my bin full of cables.
July 15, 2009 (on my wireless headset microphone – I just think this is funny):
My headset is the Crocs of microphones – works well, feels good, looks completely dorky.
And now I’m tired of myself. If you got this far, I love you more than air. And not the HOOF kind.