Playing Solo

Beautiful room last night at @trinityhousecafe

A post shared by Burke Ingraffia (@burkeingraffia) on

Earlier this evening I drove about 40 miles westward to Leesburg, VA where I played a solo gig at a place named Trinity House Cafe. It is a renovated, two-story, beautiful old house  with a lot of books on theology and spirituality on the walls.  They have a kitchen and serve food and drinks (and ice cream during the summer months). The crowd was fairly light but well-engaged with my songs, and overall I had a good time. I feel most alive and happiest when I am singing and playing guitar.

However, I don’t enjoy solo gigs as much as I enjoy playing with one or two other musicians.  Before I moved to Northern Virginia, I had a fun little trio in New Orleans with whom I would play brunches and wine bars and the like. New Orleans audiences do not really listen to carefully crafted lyrics as much as they want percussive music to socialize to, so my style changed during those years to accommodate people’s hips instead of their minds.  My guitar playing began to change too.  Instead of focusing so much on carrying all of the music with my one guitar, I learned how to play a part that fit into the whole, leaving space for the other instruments.

Now that I am back playing solo again, I am still playing a guitar style that is a part of a bigger whole, and it doesn’t always work for every song.  I miss having those other players contribute to a larger whole.

I think there is a parallel there with having gone through a divorce and annulment.

In a marriage there is usually a delegation and distribution of specific daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.  One spouse might take care of the bills while the other spouse takes care of the groceries.  One spouse might be better at house cleaning while the other keeps the lawn mowed. And in social situations like parties and family events, one spouse might be better at talking while the other is better at just being present.  You get the idea.

But after a divorce, if you are single, getting through life requires more than just playing a part.  You have to do everything, and there are certain situations in which you feel incomplete.  Being single does mean there is a lot more freedom for improvisation and spontaneity, but you still might just be playing a part of a whole – when it might be necessary for you to carry the whole experience by yourself.  That can be difficult, as it was for me for the first couple of years.

I can happily say that I am whole as a single person again.  Now I just need to either work on my solo guitar chops or find some band mates.

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