Finding Gratitude in Playing Solo Shows When You Don’t Have Time for a Band

By necessity — for lack of time and resources — I’ve defaulted to the category of “solo” artist. And in November, I’ll bring my one-woman act (Marisa Mini) to two venues: Branded Saloon in Brooklyn, and The Lumberyard in Redding, CT.

In some ways, this is a blessing. It’s also the way I started, and the way many (if not most) of us start playing music. Flying solo, I have the ultimate flexibility in my set list: If I feel like playing an old tune from 2003, I can pay it. If I want to play the tune with a cool reverb effect, I don’t have to run this by anyone. Ultimately, it’s my decision to go with the reverb. Or with the flanger, etc.

I have complete creative control over wardrobe, too: I can’t tell a bassist to wear a sexy leotard (I wouldn’t do that anyway, but still!). If I’m feeling like a leotard, I’ll put one on. Or if I’m just in an Vans-and-jeans mood, that works, too.

Yet as thrilling as it is to play a set that I control, there’s something lonely about the prospect of playing a solo show. Especially because I know how wonderful and fun it is to collaborate with other musicians.

If I have more time by myself, I can get into a self-critical mode, second guessing my song choices or even whether or not I can hit notes in my head voice. Also, without the live sounding board of a band, I don’t know if the set arrangement I’ve considered represents the right choice.

The vibe of a solo show is different from the vibe of a full-band show — and this kind of sucks sometimes. I don’t want to be a “coffeehouse girl” — I want to be a full-fledged rock and roller! But the sole act of playing guitar all by myself, only accompanied by a microphone and an amp, screams “coffeehouse girl.”

There’s also something terrifying too. When you’re playing with a band, the entire team shares the blame when a mistake is made. Because if you sound shitty, it doesn’t matter if it’s because the guitar is out of tune or the drums are ill-timed with the bass.

When you’re solo, you are the one who is credited for your amazing pipes or clever lyrics. But you’re also the one who is frowned upon when you play the wrong note.

I can no longer blame “the drummer” if there isn’t a drummer to blame!

The bottom line is that I simply don’t have time for anything else but a solo show. I don’t have time to search high and low for musicians, or to even drive to a rehearsal space that’s more than 10 miles in from my home. I don’t have time to argue with bandmates about how a set should or shouldn’t be arranged. I only have time to finesse my guitar chops in the comfort of my own home, and to sing when no one is listening.

But I can promise you this: I play an engaging and sonically inspiring set at both my Brooklyn and Redding shows this month. I know this because I’m practicing my tail off, sneaking in guitar-fingering exercises ever hour or so, while my kids are in preschool.

So I hope to see some of you there!

Saturday, November 5

8 p.m.

Branded Saloon, Brooklyn, CT (with the Girls Rock & Girls Rule Crew)

Saturday, November 19,

8 p.m.

The Lumberyard, Redding, CT (with Catalina Shortwave, Fuzzqueen, and others)

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

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