The Tribute Band or the Album — Which Came First?
Since our band, Savor, released an album of original Latin rock music after 6 years of playing as a Santana Tribute Band, it would be natural to assume that we were inspired to do so after playing Carlos Santana’s music for so long. Actually, the reverse is true.
8 years ago, I was playing in — get this — a 3-piece instrumental rock band. The band’s goal was to create music that had hooks: actual melodic and harmonic motifs in a pop-song-like format. Talk about a challenge! It forced all of us to stretch, and as the band’s main writer, I really honed my compositional skills.
Near the end of the band’s two-year tenure, I was starting to try to write songs in a Latin style. (Rather than Santana, I was inspired by Salsa and other more traditional genres of South American music.) What quickly became apparent was that having only three instruments severely limited the possibilities. I didn’t really know much about Latin percussion, but something was obviously missing. So, I began to try to form a new band, with the purpose of playing Latin-flavored instrumental music.
Things didn’t go so well.
For the previous project (named, ironically, “Hook”), I was lucky enough to connect with a bass player and drummer who, like me, were playing for the love of it. When trying to assemble a larger unit, however, I had trouble getting musicians to commit. One keyboard player I spoke to, though, mentioned a Santana Tribute Band he had played with previously.
“A tribute band?” I thought. That’s tacky. But the more I considered it, the more I realized it could be the method with which I had a ready-made unit available to play original songs. I decided to give it a go. The next couple of years brought two surprising (to me) results:
1) Building a working tribute band was a lot harder than I thought!
2) I re-learned the fact that people connect with vocal songs, and began writing those as well as instrumental compositions.
Now, I will say that while Santana was not my original inspiration for my own songs, I did learn some valuable lessons while mastering his music. But that’s a subject for another article.