Down and Dirty with G. Love: On Playing Solo
I'm on the plane. US Air, service Philly to Boston. I wrapped up my sold out, solo acoustic tour last night in Ocean City, Maryland and it's time I head home. I have to say I get a bit sad at the end of my tours these days. Trust me I'm ready to get some rest and family time but I sure miss my crew and I miss the road the minute I step up off of it. That's the truth. Music is my life and it's what I'm good at. It feels good to be on the road and to be the best you that you can be night in and night out.
This solo tour was just a blast so I figured I would write about what it's like to be a solo performer. For me there's never been a more romanticized symbol than one man and his guitar. One man and his guitar against the world. Or more like one man and his guitar bringing love, joy, passion and the heat of performance to the room and to he world. Whether it's John Hammond, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy or G. Love, there's something special there.
My friend Miles Doughty from the band Slightly Stoopid calls it acoustic roots. That sounds good to me. That old acoustic guitar you sat with as a kid and later shredded on as a teenager, that's the root. I think it's of the utmost importance as a musician and a performer to not get too far away from that feeling. One man and one guitar.
Playing solo acoustic just builds character, man. Shit, if you can hold a room of people's attention with your acoustic guitar, your voice, your foot stomping and some harmonica in there, then in my opinion you've really got something special. I mean shoot, any body can get people dancing with drums, bass, keys and all that. Solo is different.
I think the coolest compliment I got on this past tour was from a DJ. I ended the tour at this raucous beach bar called Secrets down in OC, MD. The bar itself is a perfect summertime shit show. I mean it's nice and all, it's just a party spot and not exactly conducive to performing streetside blues acoustically. But still I went up there for a sold out room of 700 partying people and got it done. I was outside after the gig on the late night and the DJ who was spinning hip hop and party tracks and had no idea who G. Love was came up and complimented me on the ability to hold that crowds attention. He was kind of blown away and I was very taken back by his compliment. Thanks for that, DJ!
For me when I'm up there solo it’s such a different experience than playing with the band. I feel very comfortable but I also feel like there's so much at stake. It's Atlas, man! The whole show is on my shoulders. It's power and freedom of direction but you've really got to bring it. There's a certain amount of vulnerability, you're putting out there and I find that people respect that. I can take chances. I can make some mistakes and pull off a lot of heavy licks as well. It's all rewarded by the crowd because they know it's just you up there sweating it out for them and they love it.
When I perform with the band I don't really say too much between songs. It's almost like sometimes you're hiding behind a big wall of sound. On the other hand, when I play solo I feel open. I enjoy talking about the songs, talking about music and really talking about anything. It's an intimate environment and because you are already exposed as a person, a songwriter and a musician it's like a freedom to just be pure and be who you are. Strip it down and play your songs. Simple.
Now, don't get me wrong. There's nothing like the power of an amazing band — trust me when I say my band is amazing. When you play your song and the rhythm section just comes up like a freight train? That's a feeling boy. Sometimes when I start my solo set I feel like everybody in the room, including me, is getting ready for that drums and bass to drop on the 8th bar but then once we all realize it's not coming we still get free.
Music is all about tension and release. The solo show can have a lot of tension because you don't get that bass and drum groove to round it out. I find that you can be very dynamic in your song selections. This can help give the feeling of tension and the lovely feeling of release. The release is the pay off and the reward. It's important.
I encourage all people that want to front a band to perform solo. I truly believe that if you can pull it off by yourself first, it will make you a much stronger presence in front of your band. I cannot stress this enough. From Dave Matthews to Eric Clapton and everyone in between — they can all do it as just a man and their guitar.
Don't forget those Acoustic Roots! Keep jamming down and dirty.
G. Love, aka Garrett Dutton, has been the front man and founder of the alternative hip-hop blues group G. Love & Special Sauce since their inception in 1993. Widely known for his upbeat hits "Cold Beverage," "Baby's Got Sauce" and "Hot Cookin'," G. Love returned to his blues and country roots on his latest release, Fixin' To Die (Amazon, iTunes), produced by Scott and Seth Avett. A road dog if one ever existed, G. Love performs roughly 125 shows a year all over the world including Australia, Japan, Brazil, UK, Canada and the U.S. G. Love teamed up with Gretsch to create his own signature model, the Gretsch G. Love Signature Electromatic Corvette, which features a pair of TV Jones® Power'Tron™ pickups, deluxe mini-precision tuners and a cool Phili-green color scheme with competition stripe that would make ANYONE from Philadelphia proud! Check it out here.
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