Go Your Own Way – the beauty of the solo musician

Brigid Harrison-Draper /
Oct 18, 2017 / Music

Being in a band can be the dream for many teens and young adults, when they see their favourite musicians jamming together as though they are a family rather than a bunch of people being paid to show their creative mastery.

But what fans don’t see is the opposing view of being in a band, fall outs, arguments, on stage bust ups which as we know leads to the divorcing of the band. But from this divorce, can come a new prospective in the life of an ex band member, the solo artist.

Following the success of Liam Gallagher’s recent solo album, lets explore the favourable choice of ‘going your own way’.

When it comes down to the different dynamics of being a solo artist and being in a band, the major difference comes down to the independence and where it takes you. We are talking about the real ARTists, the solo musician who creates art and influences the mind of others, to an extent that can’t be achieved when working in a band formation. John Lennon. Despite the ultimate fame achieved in The Beatles, going solo gave John Lennon the chance to give the world his own opinion and influence so many others to speak their mind. We aren’t saying that Paul McCartney had a mute button every time Lennon wanted to speak about an issue he saw was fit to be put into song, but being a solo musician allows the mind to explore greater than the boundaries of being in a band. Comparing Lennon’s solo work like ‘Imagine’ or ‘Mind Games’ to his work in The Beatles shows the focus he had on world peace. A solo musician has the opportunity to speak their own mind and create music based on issues that they want to, rather than what they are told to.

Likewise, being a solo artist gives the musician a chance to really speak their mind when, in a band, they were pushed to the side or wasn’t the ‘key’ member of the band. Speaking of The Beatles and their success as a band. When you are asked on the spot to name a member of The Beatles I bet you don’t say George Harrison first. George Harrison, despite being a fan favourite, was never given as much limelight as that of McCartney or Lennon. It’s from this lack of ‘fame’ that Harrison fans were so happy to hear solo work by Harrison because we had never really heard him before despite him being in one of the biggest rock bands of all time. Tracks like ‘My Sweet Lord’ and ‘What is Life’ saw the creation of a solo musician and gave all the millions of Beatles’ fans a real eye (ear) opener on the greatness of a musician who wasn’t the leader of the band.

Just as Harrison explored the talent he was given as a vocalist, breaking away from a band gives the solo artist a chance to really focus on the aspect that they want to celebrate the most. Would Fleetwood Mac really be as significant in music as they are now, without Stevie Nicks? Her distinctive vocals categorised Fleetwood Mac as one of the greatest bands of all time, which gave her a sophisticated reason to go solo. Eight solo albums down the line, Stevie Nicks has really celebrated the gift she was given. Her solo work also allowed her to change the sound of her music, Edge of Seventeen being a key example of heavier rock which previously Fleetwood Mac tended to shy away from.

And just as changing the sound of the music becomes a key supportive reason in being a solo musician, being able to change completely how you are as a musician is a returning image seen in the transformation from band member to solo artist. George Harrison, Ringo Star, Johnny Marr, Dave Grohl and Bernard Sumner are key musicians who dropped their instruments (not literally) to transform into front men or solo musicians. Johnny Marr is a rather interesting example of a guitarist turn frontman. After leaving The Smiths  because “their musical approach had gone stale”, Marr’s solo career has shown a different side to the ex Smiths band member. Still performing with his signature jangly guitar sound, Marr’s solo career has seen him remove himself from the self absorbed melodrama of The Smiths, to the more traditional rock sound he carries today.

Breaking away from a band can also lead you to the darker side of music, the Christmas song creator. Jokes aside, plenty of solo artists has seen the winter season as a great time to channel their inner festive feels and create Christmas songs. Paul McCartney is certainly a solo artist who isn’t afraid to jangle his festive bells as soon as ASDA start stocking up on Christmas trees.

Whether it be to breakdown the barriers that being in a band create, or to liven up to the persona you carried in a band (note Liam Gallagher and his rock n roll star personality), being a band member turned solo musician has it benefits other than `being able to have all the attention on oneself. Being a solo artist, for many, is a great escape into the creative industry of the music world.

p.s please Arctic Monkeys don’t break up and all go into solo work, I can’t deal with the sadness of another Alex Turner movie soundtrack, it really makes me cry and gets me right in the feels.


Photo credit: RANKIN

Words by Brigid Harrison-Draper

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