Arlen Roth Says “Always Consider Your Bandmates.”
The “working” environment of being in a band, whether you’re an “equal” member or the front man or “band leader” is always an incredibly delicate and emotionally loaded situation. Fragile and not-so fragile egos must always be considered, and each individual has specific personal needs that should always be addressed. I can even recall being on the largesttour I have ever done, the Simon and Garfunkel World Tour, and even then, with 13 band members, and an overall crew of 107 people, we still felt like we were truly “cared for” as much as possible.
Of course, when you’re on a tour of that magnitude, there is always going to be a slightly mass approach to how many things are handled, that just comes with the territory, but there were still certain people whose job it was to make the musicians feel, and be treated special. I can remember how the road manager always knew that I needed an extra “wake up call” in the morning, and how Richard Tee, our piano player also needed extra time. (Not to mention how it first took Richard a major time of telling this road manager just “where it was at” and the kind of treatment he was supposed to get!)
But if you’re on a lesser tour, with lesser budgets, and who isn’t these days? You must always make sure that each member feels special in their own way, and because of their own unique contribution to the music and the band as a while. There were many tours I did with Folk acts, where I was really the only sideman, and this often presented problems because a lot of people started to come to see the shows more for me and my playing rather than the actual headline performer! This created a bit of a “sticky” situation between the two of us often, but it never really bothered me, as long as I let my ego take a backseat to the actual music we were putting forth. Many times the artist actually felt “proud” that I was there, and saw how I was actually doing my best to elevate their music! When it comes down to that, that is always the best kind of working relationship you can have!
These days, it is very important that I work with players who respect and defer to me, but who are players I can trust on a very gut level to not only do the “right thing” musically, but also the right thing personally. I have had bands where there are such silly squabbles and disagreements among certain members as to be comical. They have to be able to step back and look at the bigger picture, and to know that all the fussing and fighting just is never worth it, and that it can really affect the music once you try to take it onstage!!
So keep a level head about your music, and whether you’re a “band-leader” or simply a “band member”, each and every musician must be thought of as your “fellow player” and afforded all the dignity and respect he or she deserves. It’ll only make the music better and the entire experience a happier and more memorable one as well!
Gibson.com’s Arlen Roth, affectionately known The King of All Guitar Teachers, is music lesson pioneer and the quintessential guitarist. An accomplished and brilliant musician — and one of the very few who can honestly say he’s done it all — Roth has, over the course of his celebrated 35-year career, played on the world’s grandest stages, accompanied many of the greatest figures in modern music and revolutionized the concept of teaching guitar.