Sometime when you’re setting up your rig to do a big gig and play a jig and smoke a cig ask yourself why you’re doing it. What is your attitude, your motivation, and why are you on the bandstand, and why should you expect anyone to even listen to you? Chicks? Free beer? Money? Social interaction? Love of music? All, or none, of the above?
I knew a fiddle player for the “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”, and he played the same parts every night from the sheet music. That could be boring, I suppose, but he went into every gig with the attitude that he was going to play it better than he did the night before. He made it interesting for himself.
I approach most gigs with two things in mind: play in tune and play with taste. I really don’t worry about my tone; it’s just there, and I credit my guitar for that. But sometimes, just to make it interesting, I’ll try to play like I was doing a session, or I’ll try to play some amazing shit that’ll make somebody in the band sit up and take note, or I’ll see if I can not play my favorite lick all night, or I’ll try to come up with something I’ve never played before, or I’ll use the first finger instead of the middle finger for single string stuff, or I’ll play a whole song without using the bar (you mighta/shoulda heard Julian Tharpe do that), or I’ll pretend I’m playing with Ernest Tubb instead of Ernest Hemingway. If it’s a casual bar gig I like to go for it sometimes. Wouldn’t try any of this on an artist gig at the Super Bowl.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some amazing musicians who blew me away every night, but I’ve also worked with some slugs who play the same shit every night, and I don’t know how they stand it. I get so bored with my own playing; I’ve heard it all before, too many times, and I’m always trying to play something new, even if it means going out on a limb and playing something that’s not as good as my normal stuff. Normal is boring, right? I might fuck up (might?) sometimes, but at the end of the night – or the month, or the year, or the career – I’ll emerge a better player, or so I’m thinking. Anyway, that’s my story, and if it gets you fired don’t pay any more attention to me.