A lot of people seem surprised when they find out I’m a soloist, that I have no musical backup. They seem perplexed when they find out I’m content being a sole proprietor. After all, shouldn’t all musicians aspire to be in a band?

Certainly, I believed that at one time. Now? Not so much. And here’s why:

I had been in bands, duos, trios, and small combos and ensembles for almost my entire musical career. In my band experiences, there’s always someone who does the majority of work, and someone who is a total slacker. There’s also someone who has no concept of time (I.e. punctuality), and someone who micromanages. When you’re a soloist, you are the ONLY one responsible! You do all the work yourself, you’re responsible for being on time, and you can hash over a song until its absolutely the way you want it, IF you feel like it! Sure, going it alone is hard, hard work, but there’s no fights and no ruined gigs because someone didn’t show or didn’t learn their part. Its all on you.

Also, finding rehearsal time can be very tricky. I live in the boonies and I have two very hectic day jobs. It’s hard enough trying to find time for myself to practice, let alone finding time when my crazy schedule meshes with someone else.

Bands also seem to be fairly limited in scope. If you’re a soloist, you can play whatever you want to play, and you don’t have to answer to anyone. If you want it, play it! Easy as that.

Certainly there can be a large amount of enjoyment gleaned from communal music activities (I love me a good jam night). Certainly I’ve been in some really good bands who were more like family than coworkers. But here’s the biggest reason why I have no desire to return to being “one of many” any time soon: I haven’t found myself yet. Up until this recent exploration, my solo experience was limited. In a group, it’s all about blending. No one can stick out or the entire group falls apart at the seams. I got real good at being whoever they wanted me to be. But I didn’t know how to sound like ME. I need time to find out just who I am.

And that’s why I am not tripping over myself to go back just yet. I’m still working on me. With all the writing I’ve done, with all the genres I’ve picked up since I’ve quit the band scene, I’ve come a lot closer to knowing what my musical heart is made of. But I’m still not quite there. There’s a ways to go yet…

3 thoughts on “Flying Solo

  1. I think you are doing a grand thing there Heather. Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who did the solo thing the entire time I was learning my craft. I had a wonderful teacher .. and he was not easy on me at all! And we used to disagree not rarely about musical interpretation, but when it came down to it .. I played My interpretations .. Period. I made that call. And who I am came out.
    Because he was such an fabulous teacher, he made me do things I wasn’t overly excited about at first, like play contemporary music and play in ensembles. I discovered I LOVE chamber music. And playing with other musicians is Very important and helps you grow. It allows you to do and feel things you wouldn’t on your own. Playing with other people is a challenge because of all the things you said, and I can think of a few more even. But you are also right about the importance of finding you and the place where you fit. You need to carve out your niche and then you can find the ways to bring That out while you’re playing with others without changing a quartet to a violinist and accompaniment .. you know what I mean?
    Who You are, musically, in many ways will change as you grow. You will find the constants. These things take time to discover. But you will .. on your own time, which is, in and of itself, crucial. Don’t let yourself feel pushed into anything and please don’t let anyone pressure you about this.
    I’m doing different steps of this same dance right now. And I can’t dance. lol We’ll figure it out. You just keep playing what You want and need to play. You have to have your own sense of self and identity beFore you can really play with anyone else happily, healthily and productively. We do powerful things with our music and I don’t think you’ve really seen that yet. And please trust me here. You Need to find that for yourself, and you’re not going to be Able to do that with anyone else’s influence in the mix.
    And I will do the same. For Years I played in so many groups for all the wrong reasons. I mean they were good reasons .. but always for everyone else and not me. Now, after going through what I have, I am feeling a need to reclaim My place and it’s a bit different now. I have that stupid feeling of “Dang it .. I Know I parked right here . . where’s my car?” more often than I care to admit. lol and I am having to make executive decisions about what I play, and who I play With that were never necessary before, and I’ve already been guilty of getting more involved with a project that despite being awesome projects, were Not anything I wanted to devote time on. At this very moment, I am working on my part for the theatre show coming up that I am So Excited about. The music is great, The sets are great, and I Love the theatre. I was invited to play with a musician I have always respected and even admire a bit perhaps, so that is in the pot .. the hard rock kind of pot and I am trying to figure out what I am Capable of now. Playing a Lot of scales. ugh. I’ll find myself again. It’s just going to take a little time as I’m different. But I know that if I don’t find That, I’ll Never be Able to do these things I want that require other musicians in any way that I am proud of or comfortable with.
    The big thing .. protect yourself from things/ideas/opinions/projects that Waste Your Time. You can’t get that back. Fly, be free, and then choose where to light. And keep in your mind, that while you are finding yourself, playing with other musicians is critical to Your development and thinking, so don’t abandon that, But don’t you feel bad for one second about taking all the time you need solo. You Have to, and that’s that.
    Love you, Girl! And I love your music!

    1. Exactly, Maria! On so many counts…

      I do love playing with others. And I have learned so much from being able to sit next to some absolutely fabulous musicians. I’m afraid my post came across more bitter and cynical sounding than I intended… I really DO enjoy getting to play with other people.

      But you’re right — music is a lot like a serious relationship: you have to know who YOU are before you can really make it work! And that just takes time. Time I haven’t really had yet. I mean, out of 20+ years of music experience, I’ve spent at least — at least — eight, almost ten, years of it playing in groups. If you take out the first eight to ten years that are spent learning how to drive your instrument (which don’t really count as “solo” experience), then that doesn’t leave very much.

      Some people DO make me feel guilty about taking this time, though, whether they intend to or not… I’m flattered so many people want to play music with me, or who think I need to join their band… but… In my heart, I’m content at the moment. I’ve never really had the opportunity to explore before. I have that chance finally. 🙂

    2. And you! 🙂 I know you’re gonna be great. You’re already a HUGE inspiration to me, what with everything you’ve been through. Any time I start worrying about my hand (ulnar nerve issues with my strumming hand from old neck injuries… getting it addressed, but it’s a long, frustrating road), I think about everything I watched you went through and you give me strength. 🙂 Keep at it, lady! 🙂 Love ya.

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