Flying Solo – A Chicago Born Bird
By Alex Hoffer
Growing up just outside of Chicago was always an amazing bit of luck for me. Not only lucky because I love that city, but because as I got older, I’d begin realizing that I’d want to be working there as much as possible. Music and a place like Chicago do go hand-in-hand and I wasn’t about to let that opportunity slip by. A few things could, and did, get in the way though. In the end however, nothing is as powerful as a dream. Nothing is as powerful as belief.
Currently twenty-four years old, I started playing in front of people (at open mics, etc.) when I was twenty. It didn’t take very long for me to see how deeply this music affected me. It took me no more than two or three open mics before I started writing, and playing my own music. Soon after that, I began thinking very deeply about the idea of actually “booking” shows. A term a put in quotes because at that time, I still didn’t really understand what “booking” was. After a Thursday night at “The Fat Bean” coffee house in Naperville, the guy running the open mic asked me if I’d like to come back in a couple weeks on a Friday night and open up for a small acoustic band that was playing there. I eagerly accepted the invitation and so was born my first show. Armed with a five man group of some of my closest friends, I marched to the Fat Bean. At 7:00PM on that Friday evening, I performed my first, non-open-mic, show and it was everything I had hoped it would be. The adrenaline pumping through my veins, the look on my friends faces, and the look on everyone elses all came together to make it a moment that is now etched into the back of my memory.
Since that day, I’ve played solo, duo, trio and full band shows alike. All of them presenting their own unique challenges. Through all the confusion of planning for each differently, what I did know is that I wanted music to be my main source of income. I wanted music to be my work. I figured, if I must have a job to pay for food, shelter, clothes, etc., it might as well be music. First and foremost, I love it. A close second, I began finding ways to make music an acceptable form of work. (In the eyes of those concerned that it couldn’t provide for me.) I set out to let myself and others know that if you want something, it’s attainable. Dreams are not to be set aside, forgotten about, or only spoken of when beginning a sentence with, “Do you remember when?” Dreams are as real as you and I, and all I could think to do is run towards mine.
While I must admit, at times, trying to be successful in this venture can be disappointing sometimes. I feel going solo can make certain misfortunes seems worse than they actually are as well. I can recall a handful of times when I just wouldn’t allow myself to get to overly excited about the prospect of a gig until the week, or even day, it was going to happen. As a solo musician dealing with the loss of a gig you had really wanted, it’s hard for most people to fully understand what is worst about that situation for you. If you’re in a band you’re all affected a little more equally. However learning to deal with these small misfortunes is only a tiny part of it all. Getting over the disappointment is not so bad when the better parts of these adventures come knocking at your door.
Now twenty-two, I headed into the studio to begin recording for the first time in my life. If there’s one piece of studio advice I can give; always know EXACTLY what you want to do before you go in. Let new ideas and spontaneity your backup, not your guide. As I found, it’s easy to waste alot of money in a recording studio. Without proper outlining, hours can be wasted, and hours usually means hundreds and that’s not where you want to go.
Now I’m twenty-four, still writing new music, getting ready to record more of it too. I recently had three of my four Demo EP songs played on local radio in Joliet, Kankakee, Shorewood, Naperville, Plainfield, Minooka, Morris, (Illinois) as well as some other towns I can’t quite remember off the top of my head. From twenty year old kid, to twenty-four year old kid/musician that just had a few songs played on the radio. In the grand scheme of things, not a huge deal. To a solo musician trying to figure out his place in the world, in music, in life… an awesome point in his life. Most certainly not the best, or the end. Much more to come after these messages.