United on stage: One-man band aims to create community through music

Standing up on stage, with every eyeball focused on you, is when the energy starts flowing.

MG Bailey has been performing for much of his life. The Chicagoland resident found a joy and passion in making music, creating a unique one-man act with his guitar, drums, processors and other equipment. Something intense happens when the lights come on, and even as the only one on stage, Bailey works to wrap the audience around him.

“I want everyone to take part in the show. The room is the show. Of course I’m the show, for sure, but the night, the room, everybody there, I like to bridge that gap with them,” he said. “Because I have no one else behind me. No one’s taking a guitar solo — it’s just me and the audience.”

Bailey brings his infectious one-man band performance to Johnson County on April 7, when he takes the stage at MashCraft Brewing. His original music straddles the musical spectrum, from rock to punk to blues and folk, while he curates a selection of cover songs to fire up the crowd.

This will be his first show at MashCraft, and the opportunity to introduce a new group of people to his sound is one he is eagerly anticipating.

“I love playing a new room. That first time I get to go somewhere, there’s a little fire in me. I want to put on that good show,” he said.

The 41-year-old had always loved listening to music. He remembers the first time he heard Don McLean’s “American Pie” on the radio, and was struck by how poetic the song was.

“I was a little kid, and it sounded biblical — it sounded like church to me. It was this epic story, and I really connected to things like that,” he said.

As he grew older, Bailey tried to make music himself. His first instrument was a saxophone, but he didn’t feel a bond with it. Not until he picked up a guitar when he was 14 did he feel the electricity of creating music.

One day in high school, a classmate saw him playing and suggested the form a band.

“I was like, ‘What do mean start a band? You’re born in Aerosmith, you’re born in Nirvana. You can’t start a band.’ But it was that freedom, that moment that you could do whatever you wanted. And it was all a snowball from there, sitting in the garage and writing crappy songs and having a blast,” he said.

Over time, Bailey was in a number of bands and projects. He eventually struck out on his own. First, he experimented with electronics and looping, but what stuck with him was the memory of running into a street busker in Memphis one day.

The musician had a homemade guitar, a couple of drums, and a bucket on the ground, and Bailey was drawn to that raw musicianship.

He added his own rhythm section to his guitar playing. Drawing from a wealth of influences, he forged his own distinct style.

“I make the sound I make because I’m me. Playing rock and punk rock and blues and jazz, I loved hodge-podging all of the music together the best I could,” he said. “You still want people to listen; you don’t want it to be so crazy that people don’t even know what I’m doing up there.”

His one-man band was born, a setup that offered Bailey expansive freedom to create, but also comes with challenges.

“It’s a lot of work. I’m the one loading all of the gear, driving the show, doing my best to promote them all,” he said. “But it’s so much fun. That’s the main thing — I try to have fun with it.”

If You Go

MG Bailey

What: A concert by the Chicagoland one-man band

When: 7 p.m. April 7

Where: MashCraft Brewing, 1140 N. SR 135, Greenwood

Cost: Free to attend

More information or to buy music: mgbailey.com