One Man band music
Photo courtesy of the artist
If you're a solo act – whether you're a singer-songwriter with a guitar or a DJ with a laptop – it takes a great deal of independence and self-motivation to stand out. So, how do you manage to book tours and land gigs on the big stages as a one-man band? Well, folk artist Whetherman – the stage name of guitarist, producer, and vocalist Nicholas Williams – has certainly figured out what it takes to get his music out there on his own. He not only entertains large crowds solo at 180 shows per year, but he's the one responsible for controlling his creative vision. Below, Williams shares his tips for filling the stage as a solo artist and how he's been so successful in self-managing his music career.
As a one-man band, do you feel like it's challenging to get your music out there?
I think there are plenty of platforms to get your music out there, so making your music available isn't the hard part. Standing out as a DIY musician takes a lot of good old word of mouth, chances, and opportunities, as well as time and experience, of course. It's certainly more difficult when you don't have a team behind you to push the line even further. Sometimes I think when I'm doing something seemingly tedious but necessary that it could be spent by completing a more important task. But I suppose everything has its place in time.
On the other hand, what do you find the most rewarding about leading your own solo project? Do you find you work best when you have full creative control?
There are probably a lot more personal rewards and growth in character. To me, it's definitely more meaningful than if someone else were to do it for me. I'm a pretty independent and convictive person about my growth by nature with whatever passion I'm after. So for me, the musical vision is a big part of who I am and the decisions I make, which makes creative control a must. But I'm learning to share the vision and finding the balance of not feeling like I need to do everything forever.
With no bandmates or team to help you secure gigs, how has Sonicbids helped you fill in the gaps? What's the most memorable opportunity you've gotten so far?
I'd say that Sonicbids offers more than any other musical platforms I've seen out there, and they seem to work with everyone in the business. I have access to major avenues of promotion for my music, and I can display it in a professional way behind a company that every major festival uses for their solicited applications.
But one I was afforded through the opportunities on the site was with Sofar Sounds in Boston last April. The music I make thrives in listening environments, and Sofar Sounds is truly defining the movement around the world with all of the volunteers who present, host, and attend the amazing intimate shows they put on. Because of that, I also had the pleasure of performing for Sofar Newcastle, Sheffield, and Cambridge on my UK tour in May of this year. Who knows what other cities I'll have the chance to play in, or how many people will see the incredible videos they film.
Do you usually aim to perform in intimate settings with especially attentive audiences like Sofar Sounds since it's just you up there?
For me, there's an exchange of communication with the audience that is indescribable in an intimate setting when people are showing their respect. They see me and I see them in a different way than just at a glance. It's a lot harder to get that message across when you're playing through noise, and not much attention is focused on what you're doing or trying to say. Luckily, those shows are becoming less and less, which is nice. But I've also learned to deal with them more positively when they do, probably because I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
What are your tips for filling the stage and commanding the audience's attention as a one-man band?
People are observing your every move, and that can be intense unless you have confidence in what you're doing. I think not being afraid to be raw and real, humbly telling them why you wrote the songs, and relating to them is essential to them wanting to see you again. Being open-minded and not letting expectations get in the way also helps the process a great deal. Musically, I've adopted a very percussive style of playing the guitar over the years, so I'm not missing out on the general beat and neither is the audience. But experience has been the prevailing factor which, of course, just takes time to get figured out.
One of the benefits of being in a band is that each member has his or her own network to get the music out there. Being a solo musician, what tools have you utilized to network and make connections that have helped your following grow?
I certainly can't reach out personally to as many networks as a five-piece band could in one sitting. But in my many travels, I've been lucky enough to have met or come into contact with people that get behind my music and spread it farther and wider than I could have on my own. I'm slowly building that following in a grassroots way. I've also had a great deal of connections through online means like Facebook, Instagram, Bandsintown, YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Twitter, among many others. Having your music available in as many places as you can get it is never a bad thing.