UNDER THE COVER
by Alyson Lyon
“What do you want to do with your life?! I want to rock!!! Rock! Rock! Rock! Rock! I want to rock!!!”
If you agree wholeheartedly with the above sentiment and are a born rebel with a taste for adventure, then the life of a musician may very well suit you. However, even rebels must support themselves; even rebels have bills to pay. And sometimes even super-cool musician-rebels who can write original songs in their sleep play covers. For a host of reasons, having a solid 2 hours of covers can open lucrative doors. Knowing that many covers doesn’t make you less of a musician, just a more realistic and prepared one. After all, the difference between a professional and an amateur is that a pro makes a living.
While you’re still making a name for yourself, people will often want to hear you play something by someone they know and trust. It’s just a fact; they want to hear some recognizable song that they can reminisce over, laugh about, cry over. Someone, somewhere will want to hear a Beatles tune at some point in your career. And while many musicians dislike “having to play covers” and would much prefer to play their original music, playing covers can be a positive. You don’t have to feel like a tool because you have to play some covers. The covers should be your tool.
Building ones repertoire can be a fun experience. Gathering songs is made easy with the internet at hand: www.ultimate-guitar.com has tons of tabs that you can download for free. So many popular songs are written with simple chord progressions, so they’re relatively quick to learn. You don’t have to break your back over building your rep. The fun part comes in making the songs your own. I’ve taken Madonna’s Like A Virgin and made it into a slow, sad finger-picked gem. When I bust that out at the sandwich shop that pays me nicely for my weekly 2- hour set of covers, people stop, listen, and smile. There’s something great about taking a well-known song and putting your mark on it. After all, if you’re playing it, you are the one behind the music, regardless if you wrote it or not. You can see the dreaded cover as a source of self-expression that allows for something familiar to become new again for you and the audience.