Back in August I was asked by my good friend and fantastic songwriter Dave Doobinin if I'd be interested in playing guitar in his new band. He's been in the studio for a while and is releasing a great record later this year. It got me thinking about the past.
I had considered picking up guitar gigs when I first moved to New York, but never pursued it. I'm very picky (to a fault) when it comes to being someone's guitar player, and I haven't done that in quite a while. I really have to respect the artist I'm playing for and it helps if I like the music. Who knows where I'd be today if I'd continued on that path. I've been very fortunate in the past to have been a part of some amazing bands where I was the guitarist/backup singer. I toured the country many times over and shared many stages with some very talented and interesting musicians. I learned a lot, both about myself and what also it takes to be a successful musician. I took a lot of things for granted along the way. For some insane reason, I decided to ignore all the opportunities that would come my way as a guitarist and become a singer/songwriter. I guess I was tired of the instability that came with being a side man. Once a tour is over, you are basically left with 2 choices: (a) Find another paying gig, or (b) Get a job. If you're smart, you save the money you make on the road and it may last you a few months (depending on the gig and what it pays of course) but was never any good at saving then. Back in Austin, there weren't many paying gigs. Not the kind I wanted anyway. Once I was done with a major tour I had little or no options, and going to apply for jobs with the City of Austin after playing in front of 2,000 people opening for Rufus Wainwright was a very hard pill to swallow. I was always told that the money was in publishing. Songwriters make the dough. So I gave it a shot. I write decent enough songs. Nothing mind blowing but it makes me happy. I say what I have to say and move on. But I still love playing guitar. Especially through a cranked up amplifier, which I rarely get to do.
So of course I said yes to Dave. I had 3 weeks to learn 9 songs. Not too bad. I took a song a day for the first 9 days, then tackled them all at once like a set list after that. I have to say, it was rough. I haven't had to learn someone else's guitar parts in quite some time, and these were no easy riffs! I really had to focus on every little intricate part and try to capture what I heard on the recording, after all, he's paying me to make him sound good! I guess I was a bit rusty at first but it didn't take long to shake it off. Dave and I got together before the show and played through the songs in his apartment. We made some minor changes but he seemed happy overall with my parts. I have to admit I was nervous, and it felt great to be nervous again!
The night of the show came fast. I was instructed by Dave to wear all black, so I found my favorite black pearl snap and black jeans. I wore my favorite black leather boots and my black leather jacket even though I was a little uncomfortable. The weather is nice but not leather jacket nice yet. I topped it off with my old faithful grey fedora. I walked with my fender telecaster and effects board to the 6 train and headed down to 14th where I took the L to the lower east side. On Ave A and 11th I stepped into a club called The Hi-Fi. It was a cool, dimly lit bar complete with candles, good music in the background (Wilco, Bowie, etc.) and a collage of old album artwork covering the walls. Dave greeted me as soon as I walked in and introduced me to several people of whom I could not for the life of me remember at this point because I was so focused on the show and nervous as hell! I quickly had a glass of wine to try to settle my nerves. It didn't really help much. The room we performed in was towards the back and closed off from the main bar. A true listening room with a max capacity of about 20 but there was close to 30 people in there when we went on. The stage was hardly a stage at all, tucked in the corner of the room and surrounded by a complex network of wires, speakers and microphones on stands. In very close proximity to the stage were little round tables with candles and half full glasses of "BEER" and eager Dave Doobinin fans. On this wee stage we somehow managed to fit 2 amplifiers, Dave and his acoustic guitar, a keyboardist with an 88 key nord lead and myself with my guitar and pedal board. I still don't know how we did it. The show started great! I played this little slide part on the first song that I worked on really hard and felt good about it. Then by the 4th song I started forgetting parts and just making things up on the spot, which can be pretty uncomfortable if you're not super familiar with the songs. The room was becoming smaller and smaller song by song but the crowd seemed to love it! Dave seemed frustrated at times, not at me or anyone in particular, but in the situation. He later apologized and said he simply couldn't hear himself very well, which I can completely understand. Once the show was over I felt relief that we made it through with only minor glitches. The crowd was happy and wanted more, so Dave threw a familiar tune at them and I sat back. All in all it was a good gig and I'm glad I did it. I got some amazing feedback after the show from several fans that I did not expect at all which was nice and reinforced my feelings about being a guitarist. There will be more shows to come!
It seems as though I've come full circle in my music career. I started out as a guitarist over 20 years ago. I had great success working with some amazing musicians while touring the US, Canada and Mexico. I eventually evolved into a singer/songwriter where I had some great experiences and worked with some amazing people as well. I love writing songs and singing and will always do it in some capacity, but sometimes it's nice to just play guitar for a great band and get back to my roots.