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Recently, however, he's found that more clubs are open to the idea of his performances. (To view his performance schedule, check tracerock.com.) Part of his success in winning them over, Christensen says, "is [that] I play my guts out every night, whether it's [to] three people or 300." He also credits his familiar, radio-friendly song list that hits home with today's bar-hopping demographic. "I'm doing the songs that people now in their prime earning years loved when they were in high school," he says. "So I can do a corporate thing for heavy hitters or a bar gig for people into '80s music." To some musicians that might sound like artistic compromise, but for Christensen it's not. "I play the songs that please me," he notes. "None that I don't like. That's the great thing about my solo act. I don't have to play the drummer's favorite song if I don't want to."
Not that his show doesn't have drawbacks. With three decades of band work under his belt, Christensen says he misses the camaraderie of living, breathing bandmates. He also misses the spontaneity that comes from playing with them. Occasionally he's hit a few technical glitches, too, such as tape machines locked up from sitting out in cold weather.
But the pluses of his DIY endeavor, he notes, have far surpassed the negatives. One advantage is the freedom to change his show at will to suit any crowd's tastes. "If the crowd is enjoying my Santana songs, I'll play six of them in a row," he notes. "Pleasing the crowd -- that's what I'm here for." Lack of peers also means not having to explain to anyone that a slow night means less dough than expected.
"This is such a tough business these days," Christensen says. "You work your ass off your whole life, with no guarantee that you're ever going to make a nickel. So most people shy away from it. But I'm dependable," he says, "and I can do this full-time without any distractions that take away from the music. And I have to do all the work now, but that hasn't really changed anything, because there's always one guy in a band that does all the work anyway, and that guy was always me. If I had bandmates, I'd have to be working some other job to afford it.
"It is strange," Christensen adds. "I went from playing in a nine-piece horn band in the '70s to playing in a one-piece, one-man band in the year 2000. But it's the only way I could figure out how to make a living playing music in today's market. So far, it's working."