A songwriter's dilemma: Help! I’m cheating on my band

When a band's songwriter pursues solo opportunities. Photo: AngMoKio

SANTA CRUZ, July 16, 2013 – In the music world, there are solo performers and there are bands. Often the two overlap. Some singers have always gone it alone and their songwriting reflects that. Others have solely known being part of a band and are only recently stepping into the solo milieu. 

For these folks, the hope is that the dynamics and orchestration of their songs render them instantly identifiable as either for the band or for the solo thing. Sometimes the lyrics will put a song in one camp over another, other times it is the vibe. Any laid back material is usually more conducive to a solo performance, while the music which is more up tempo would go to the band. 

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For many bands there is one principle songwriter who comes up with the bulk of the material. This person will bring songs to rehearsal which are reasonably fleshed out, if not complete. The band will then finish adding parts and flourishes until everyone agrees the song is done. For many songwriters in bands, this is all they have ever known. Their job in the band was to write the songs and steer the message. 

The dilemma comes when the band’s main songwriter decides to pursue a solo career while still maintaining their position in the group. For the songwriter, there is a new dynamic at play when writing. For the band, there are new questions about where the songwriter’s loyalties lie. When the writer comes up with a riff or piece of lyric which they feel strongly about, they must now decide which project the new song will be used for. 

At times it is an easy decision but not always. They must consider who will benefit most from this particular song. It can bring up a litany of unexpected emotions: Do they feel like their band is holding them back? Are there conflicts and old grudges lingering within the group? Is this an ideal way to get a measure of revenge against an offending band mate(s)? Many songwriters are just beginning to develop and foster a solo endeavor while their band is on the wrong side of it’s career arc. 

If the writer chooses to keep a particularly strong song for their solo collection, they had better hope their band never hears it. If they do, there is bound to be discord. The band will feel their livelihood is threatened, that their leader has betrayed them. They may suspect them of abandoning them for greener pastures, like a rat fleeing a crippled and sinking vessel. 

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If a songwriter cares to stay in their band’s good graces, they must tread lightly as they create new music. If they want to continue pursuing both outlets they must treat each one fairly and do their best not to covet one over the other. They must be careful to be transparent with their band and not begin hoarding all the really good songs for themselves. 

If they are unable to do this, the decision of whether to continue with the group or not has probably made itself. 

Russ Rankin writes about hockey, music & politics. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He also sings for Good Riddance and Only Crime. Find out what he’s up to by checking out his website.



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Russ Rankin

Santa Cruz, California native Russ Rankin is the vocalist for the seminal California punk band Good Riddance, the hard rock band Only Crime as well as currently performing original songs as a solo artist. Rankin is a dedicated vegan, an avid animal rights advocate, a political activist and has been a regular columnist for AMP Magazine and New Noise Magazine as well as contributing to various magazines such as Alternative Press, Razorcake and others. 

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