I have been performing in rock bands for most of my adult life — almost twenty years of service here — and while performing in rock bands has been a lot of fun, it has also been a lot of work and cost a lot of money over the years — rehearsal studio rent being the biggest cost of playing in a band. I have found another aspect of performing, though, that has turned out to be just as much fun as playing in a full fledged rock band plus a lot easier to manage and a whole lot easier on the wallet… performing as a solo, acoustic artist: a singer/songwriter act.
Think about it… all you really need to perform as a solo, acoustic singer/songwriter is 1) an acoustic guitar; 2) songs; 3) be able to actually sing a little bit; 4) the gumption to perform live occasionally. It’s easy to do and can be a very satisfying way to perform. As a solo singer/songwriter act you can perform live in a variety of settings: you can stick with open mic nights or even perform a regular thirty minute set at clubs or coffee houses. Personally, I like to play my acoustic set at rock clubs where I play a thirty minute set opening up for rock bands. Also, as a solo singer/songwriter, you do not have to stick with the traditional country music or sappy love songs… you can make your solo acoustic act as nontraditional or crazy as you like. I like to go over the top with my act, which has been called “a blend of Bob Dylan, Axl Rose, and Johnny Thunders on acid.” As a solo singer/songwriter I like to entertain the crowd and ham it up a bit… okay, more than just a bit. I do love that round of applause that comes after each and every song I play.
Yes indeed, friends, it’s great performing as a solo acoustic singer/songwriter and I love it. In fact, I’m currently taking a break from the rock band thing and only performing live as a solo singer/songwriter, and here are my favorite aspects of the solo singer/songwriter act:
1) Practice where ever you want: This is my favorite part of being a solo acoustic artist. Since a singer/songwriter act usually consists of just an acoustic guitar and a voice there is no need to rent a rehearsal studio to practice in. You can practice anytime, anywhere you want. I like to practice my songs lying down on my bed or just sitting on the couch. On warm summer days I take my guitar to the beach and get in a bit of practice there or sometimes I’ll go to a city park and jam some tunes on a park bench. Before a gig I like to sit on my stool in front of a full length mirror and go through my set. As a solo singer/songwriter, the whole world is your rehearsal studio and the rent is free, baby, it’s free!
2) Practice whenever you want: As a solo singer/songwriter you don’t have to schedule band practices or rely on other people showing up, ‘cos it’s just you and you practice whenever you darn well feel like it. This is freedom, baby, and freedom rocks. You feel like picking up your guitar and jamming a few songs at 3:00 AM? Do it. Ain’t nobody gonna stop you!
3) Play whatever the heck you want: As a solo singer/songwriter you play whatever the heck you want. You wanna play that sappy love song you wrote for your girl? Do it. You wanna play a Ramones cover, acoustic style? Do it, baby. You want to play the Ziggy Stardust album in its entirety? Go ahead, make my day. The choices are all yours and you won’t have to deal with any band mates who hate your sappy new love song or who want to play their own sucky songs. Plus, when you play a live gig, you can mix up your set list on the fly and get away with it, you can suddenly break out into an extended reggae jam in the middle of a song if you like, or you can extend the chorus at the end of a song an extra ten times. I do this all the time at my own solo acoustic shows, I let the vibes take control and might even make up a song on the fly. This is freedom, baby, and freedom is beautiful.
4) No loading gear involved: I freaking love this aspect of being a solo singer/songwriter — there is no heavy lifting or loading gear involved! As I said, I’ve performed in full fledged rock bands for years mainly as a guitarist and it’s always been a drag moving big heavy amps around — a real chore, but a necessary evil. I freaking hate loading heavy gear. As a solo singer/songwriter, the only gear I move around is my acoustic guitar… how easy is that? You don’t need a van to be a singer/songwriter, heck, you can take the bus to gigs if you like. Occasionally I bring my own stool to gigs (yes, I have a special stool I like to sit on) but otherwise it’s just me and my guitar, free and easy. Yeah, baby, yeah!
5) You get all the money: This is a great aspect of performing as a solo acoustic act. — when you get paid for playing a gig you don’t have to split the money with anyone else, it’s all yours, baby! Although, realistically, a solo acoustic act will not be paid nearly as much as a full-on rock band, in fact I’ve played numerous times for less than twenty bucks. Still, it’s nice to pocket whatever profit you get and not have to hand that money over for rehearsal studio rent or put it into the “band fund.” Although the money as a solo singer/songwriter is not so good, all the mula you make goes in your own pocket, free and clear, plus since being a solo singer/songwriter is so gosh darned easy it’s not like you have to actually work for the money. I still remember the first time I got paid for playing my solo acoustic set at a dive bar… the door man handed me eighty dollars in one dollar bills at the end of the night, and I felt like the richest man in the world!
There you have it… all that is good about performing as a solo acoustic singer/songwriter act. I highly encourage all you rock’n’rollers who play in bands to perform as a solo act at least once. I know you’ve got some acoustic songs in you that need to come out, so do it, baby, do it!