Michael League and the Art of Leading Snarky Puppy

Published March 19, 2024

Michael League is a figure of patience and skill, a bassist who not only plays but also navigates the eclectic Snarky Puppy, a band known for its dynamic fusion of rock, jazz, and funk. Over the period of 20 years, League has successfully transformed the band from a local act in Texas to an internationally touring ensemble, all while scooping up Grammy Awards and maintaining a harmonious group dynamic.

Evolution of a Band Leader

Leading a band as diverse and sizable as Snarky Puppy has undoubtedly polished Michael League’s leadership qualities. He acknowledges the unique challenges of guiding such a group and attributes his growth in patience and adaptability to his long-term role at the helm.

A Diverse Musical Palette

League's early musical influences, ranging from the smooth sounds of Steely Dan to the energetic pop of XTC, can be heard in the rich tapestry of Snarky Puppy’s sound. The band’s musical direction also embraces the raw power of Led Zeppelin and the intricate rhythms of jazz and funk, showcasing the myriad of influences that League absorbed during his developmental years as a musician.

Sharing Music by Ear

Snarky Puppy takes an unconventional approach in the jazz world by primarily learning music by ear rather than through sheet music. League believes in the permanence of music learned this way, as well as the flexibility it encourages among the players, enabling the band to be more spontaneous and providing audiences with exhilarating live performances.

Thriving on the Unexpected

League compares musical performances to problem-solving and the potential for growth when encountering unforeseen challenges. He recounts instances of power outages during shows wherein the band’s resilience shone through, turning obstacles into opportunities for memorable experiences with their audience.

Nurturing the Music and Musicians

Maintaining high-quality performances requires constant inspiration and support within the band. League emphasizes the importance of continued personal growth through new music and rhythms while ensuring the wellbeing and happiness of each band member. Side projects and leadership experiences among members further strengthen the group’s unity and creative output.

Snarky Puppy's journey continues as they perform on prestigious stages around the world, but for Michael League, the true success lies in each member’s dedication to the collective vision and craft.

leadership, collaboration, innovation