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Playing with a Band VS Playing Solo

Updated: May 22, 2023

by Austin Jimmy Murphy 20-May-2023


This could be a long story, but it is too early in the morning. For more than 50 years (yikes!) I have been performing in bands. Most of the time the set list was focused on my music. I began writing when I was 16 years old. I had a difficult time learning the music of Neil Young, Eric Clapton, and everyone else, so it was easier for me to write and perform my own tunes. This was welcomed for the most part. So, for most of my musical life, when a request for a song would come to the stage, I would play something in that style, but it would be a song of mine. Nobody ever complained to me. That isn't to say they weren't talking among themselves saying, "That isn't what I asked for."

I usually did all of the singing in my bands as well. This has always worked for me, but maybe not for the many, many band members I have gone through. I love to sing and play the guitar.

Going Solo

A couple of years ago, I decided to get out of the band scene mainly because the last band I was in pushed my material to the back, and all of a sudden the bass player and drummer were singing half the tunes. I wasn't used to this. So they kicked me out and I wasn't happy. So I went solo for the most part after that.

I bought a TASCAM DP-24SD recording console - an item I suggest every songwriter purchase immediately. I recorded a ton of my original material, building the drum tracks, adding bass (except when the master bass player Curt Bushaw chimed in), and I learned how to adlib on the piano (nothing great there, just the basics), To note, Ruben Gutierrez did the masterful piano, organ, and strings on a lot of my recordings.

So I began performing my own material once again only this time with professional backing tracks. I got many more gigs and did not have to deal with bandmates. Yes, it was (is) lonely, but it is quick and down and dirty. I still leave room for jamming on my tracks but the tunes are regimented. In other words, a 3:50-minute tune is always a 3:50-minute tune. But nonetheless, I love playing these compositions so that never really bothers me.

Playing with a Band - It was Magical

I still do this on occasion. The bad part about playing with a group of musicians 'on occasion' is that, as a unit, it can come up short of my regimented expectations. Who is the blame for this? Me. I can't expect things to be as tight as I wish they were or sound like my prerecorded tracks when I never steadily book gigs for the band.

I am playing with some very talented musicians. Bassist Curt Bushaw, drummer Albert Vallejo and newcomer Mike Middleton on trumpet (and now keys and trumpet, and French horn). The last time we went out we performed at the Public House 28 Brewery this past May 14th. It was magical right from the get-go. And this is what I miss - the spontaneous magic that happens within the band environment. I had so much fun. We did sync up. It was incredible. We don't do the 80s rock thing - which is a favorite style here in the southwest. We do a lot of originals and a Merle Haggard, Curtis Mayfield thing tossed in for relevance, but mostly we play my music. And I can't tell you how appreciative I am to these professional musicians that join me on stage and really add an exciting flavor to the prerecorded backing tracks I play when I go out solo.

When you are with a group of guys that love playing as much as you do and they friggin' lock in and let things fly - man, there is nothing like that. Nothing! I should, and will, book more band dates. Curt, Albert, and Mike? You guys are GREAT! Thank you very much.

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