Dear Little Bobby,
I joined a band about a year ago and it’s been fun, but we are only playing music that our guitar player has written. He was writing all of the songs when I joined, and a year later, there is talk about us beginning to write songs for a new album, but I am afraid that “us” actually means “him.” Eventually, I would like for us to play some of my songs as well. Any advice on how to approach this?
—Not Garfunkel to his Simon
Dear Not Garfunkel,
If you join an existing band, there is already a dynamic in place. To change that dynamic may or may not be possible, or advisable. Yes, you are a part of that dynamic, but if you joined as a bass player for instance, that does not necessarily mean that eventually you will write songs. That depends on so much…it depends on you, on your bandmates, on whether the band is a democracy or dictatorship.
And unless you clearly stated before you joined that band that you wanted to write as well as play, then that was not really part of the agreement.
For seven years I played keyboards in a great band called Unit 7 Drain. I played around 500 shows and recorded eight albums with them. Yet I did NOT write even one of the songs, because that was not how the band was set up. I was hired as a keyboard player. I was also in charge of my own glitter (nearly a full-time job). Our frontman wrote almost all of the songs himself. Occasionally he had help, but not from me. It was from other collaborators he had known much longer. I wanted to write and sing, but those services were not required, nor desired of me.
After a few years, a new girl joined the band. Almost immediately she started singing and cowriting songs with (and eventually married) our frontman. During this time, all I did was show up on time, play keyboards and have fun. It almost upset me that I was passed over for her, but I decided that I could either accept it, get upset or quit the band. One reason I continued with Unit 7 Drain was that I had already started another band, Shoulder Voices, where I got to write, sing and express myself however I wanted. Later, when the frontman from Unit 7 Drain decided (basically on his own) to break up the band, I was VERY happy that I had my other band to play with.
I have also been on the other side, as the band leader of Shoulder Voices taking on new musicians. Eventually many of these people go on to cowrite songs with me, or even bring their existing songs to the band. But this is not a given. I TRY to be a nice guy, so I like to include bandmates more and more as I get to know them, and as they prove to us that they are reliable by showing up on time, not having a drug problem, communicating, being good musicians, etc.
You could kindly mention to your guitar player that you would like to write a song or take a collaborative approach and say, “I am writing some music. Would you like to put lyrics to it?” or whatever the case may be. You may be turned down (that’s okay) or you may be opening up a door that your guitar player has not previously considered.
The important thing is to communicate. Many bands have broken up or had members get upset and quit because expectations were not communicated, or lived up to.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“Expectations are premeditated resentments.” —Jeff Baker, counselor
Dear Little Bobby,
I’m a writer who has recently started running to help clear my mind. I just signed up for my first half-marathon, and would like to run a full marathon before I turn 30 next year. I know that you have run several marathons. Can you give me any advice?
—Running ‘Round Austin
The key to distance running (10, 20 or more miles) is to build up to it slowly. I NEVER ran even one mile until I was almost 28. As a child I had asthma and was told that I should NEVER run, so I did not. Then one day as I was about to turn 28 I realized that I was almost 30 and I needed to get off of the couch if I wanted to feel good about turning 30. So I suddenly tried to run around my city block, which was one mile long.
I could not do it. Halfway around the block I had to stop and walk. Then the next day I tried again; same thing happened. Weeks later I made it around the block.
A month later I could run around the block twice.
Within months I could run six miles and since I was really enjoying it, I decided to run a marathon the following year. That gave me a full year to get from six miles to 26.2 miles. I told myself that even if I had to walk the second half of the marathon, I would still do it because…if Oprah could run a marathon, so could I.
During the following year, I ran and ran and ran. Since I was single, I had lots of free time. And I enjoyed getting faster and stronger. About six weeks before the race, it got REALLY hard mentally. I remember setting out on an 18-mile training run and thinking, “I do not know if I want to do this. The mental challenge was as difficult as the physical challenge.”
For anyone who is significantly increasing their miles, it is recommended to increase them very slowly. Take walk breaks. Eat before and after. Drink lots of water, even more for heat, even more for distance. Get good shoes and socks. If you just get amped on coffee and wear whatever shoes you might be able to run in, you will hate it and hate the aftereffects. If you eat right, drink right and take it in pieces, you are likely to love running and love the effects.
As your body gets used to it, then skipping a meal or accidentally being a little less hydrated once in a while will just make the run feel a little off but it will not be anything to ruin a day. When you get up to running for hours, you will learn that you have to eat while you run, that is a fun challenge. I recommend quick energy gels.
And lastly, I was able to run my marathon (and nine more) without EVER getting a significant injury. To avoid injuries, get good shoes and make yourself take time off. If you run REALLY hard for three weeks, take the 4th week easy, doing shorter runs and fewer runs—or even no running. If you start to feel pain—which is common for people who run too far, too quickly—listen to that pain AND REST.
Our bones, muscles and connective tissues all need time to adapt, to strengthen and to recuperate. I have known MANY people who train for marathons and then get injured, usually by pushing themselves too hard. They not only might not get to run the marathon, but they are often put off by running as a result. Maybe the injury is permanent, or maybe they just learn to associate running with difficulty and pain, which is not a recipe for success.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“Run like hell” —Pink Floyd 1979