Let's Start a Band

“So You Want to be Rock & Roll Star,”

or “Life I Love is Making Music With My Friends”

by Jim Mathis

Hey, let’s start a band! What musician hasn’t, at one time or another, wanted to start their own band?

I have played music off and on most of my life. I like all kinds of music and have played a lot of types of music in different groups, but I had never been involved with starting a group from zero.

In the world’s economy, starting a band is not like curing cancer or bringing peace to the Mid-East, but it can certainly be challenging. The first thing is to develop a concept. If you have limited taste or experience, this might be easy, but if you are drawing from a lot of experiences and resources, getting focused can be very difficult. Sure there is country, rock, folk, and blues, but how about bluegrass, Dixieland, jazz, swing, or perhaps you have a completely new idea. How about a Christian Hawaiian band? You would get all the church luaus.

 I decided on Christian Blues for several reasons. As a Christian, I wanted to play music that pleased the Lord. That gave a lot of choices: Gospel, Christian country, contemporary Christian, Christian jazz, and who knows what else. I have been listening to a lot of blues artists lately and I realized that blues fans would come hear a Christian blues band when they wouldn’t listen to other Christian oriented music. We could play in blues clubs as well as churches. Besides, I like blues a lot.

Question number two, how serious (spelled T-I-M-E) do we want to be? Do we want to make money or just have some fun? The answer to these questions will help determine who the personnel will be.

Finding potential band members can be daunting. Musicians find each other in all sorts of ways. But it usually comes down to just plain networking. Who do you know, who knows you, and who do your friends know. The clearer we can explain the concept, what kind of music we want to play, where we want to play, and the time commitment involved, the easier this part will be.

I had been playing with some friends in another group and also getting together to jam on Monday nights. They liked my idea and we set out looking for a drummer and anyone else that might fit the concept. Having a clear idea of how often we wanted to play, where we might be able to play, and how often we wanted to rehearse was very helpful at this stage.

It is then time to decide what songs to do. It is easy to get distracted with wanting do all your favorite songs, but staying focused on the concept is key. Does everybody have the skills to play the songs you want to do or do you need to find easier songs?

Where do we rehearse? How can we get some gigs? Are we willing to play for free? When and where can we record? Do we try to get a CD out right away? Do we have the equipment we will need? Dealing with these issues while working with artistic personalities may be more than we want to do.

How about a name? The name should say as much about the group as possible. We decided on “Sky Blue.” It has a positive sound and has the word “blue” in the name. Hopefully this will denote an upbeat blues band with a positive message.

We finally got the band together, we have been rehearsing regularly and we have dates on the calendar. Is it worth the trouble? I think so. To a musician, playing music you love, with good friends, is the greatest thing in the world. When people ask me about spending so much time and money to play in a band I usually tell them that I don’t hunt or fish, I don’t play golf, I don’t own a boat or RV, instead I play music. Music is a wonderful hobby. So what, if I have about as much chance of having a hit record as my golfing friends have of winning the Masters, we are all out there every weekend doing what we love.

Want to play in a band, or start you own band? Do it! You won’t regret it.

Jim Mathis May 2005


Update August 2009:

Five years after Sky Blue first came together, things are still going great. We have hit upon a creative team that is producing some cool stuff. We have strayed from the original concept of Christian blues, but in the process we have began to develop our own sound that is blues tinged but brings in a lot of other elements.



Jim Mathis
Bob Kaat-Wohlert
Theresa Kaat- Wohlert
Wes Burrows
Charles David Smart

Articles by Jim Mathis
I Corinthians 13
Here's the Low Down
Let's Start a Band
Fourteen Generations
The Steel Guitar
Tubes vs Solid-State
"Ear" vs "Note"