I could make a fortune in the music business, an absolute fortune, if I ditched this whole "songwriter' deal.
Not every town is as blessed as we are in Charleston to be an absolute Mecca for tourists. Our history, our beaches, our warm weather, breathtaking nature abounds....there is a reason Charleston has been named the number one city on so many international rankings.
But, what do us songwriters do with an audience that is largely made up of people that will be checking out of their hotels within the next few days? How can you build a following when the people you are playing to aren't even from 'round here?"
It is a tricky thing, for sure. When I said in my opening I could make a fortune in the music business, I wasn't kidding. In a town like Charleston, if I was to go out and find some first class fellow musicians to build a top-rate cover band with (and there are plenty first class musicians in this town) we could have an endless supply of bookings to choose from.
Weddings? Oh yeah, this is one of the top wedding destinations in the entire country. Starting in May each year you can't walk down King Street for more than a block without seeing at least one or more wedding parties docked in the same shirts that say stuff like "We said Charleston.' You could make a killing just being a wedding band.
And then there are all of the special events that happen in this town. Numerous festivals, parties, city-sponsored events, corporate events.....I haven't even had to touch booking at local venues yet and there are a TON of places throwing money at cover bands - if they bring the goods.
So, then why be an original songwriter in a town so perfectly suited to being a cover band?
Well, for one thing, I have material that I record and release. That process isn't cheap and album sales are way down so I have to use paying gigs to recoup those costs. Also, I am just no longer interested in playing other people's music. I know by sticking to my 'artist' guns I am sacrificing my ability to make a living doing music at least in the near term.
All that being said, there are still some things that us original artists would like to share with you to help you and us have a better experience at our performances. Call it a mutual code or something like that.
I love when people come to talk to me at a gig. I prefer that conversation happen during a break in the set, but if you are feeling the music so much you want to come up while I am playing, that is cool too. And I don't even mind when people come up and request a song or artist....it actually gives me an insight into the type of crowd I am playing for. And even though I mostly play originals, I do squeeze in the occasional cover and if your request is something I know or already are planning to play, awesome!
However, I am pretty picky about what covers I play. I don't play songs I don't know, obviously, but I also don't play songs enjoy playing. I might even like the song, but after playing it on stage 4000 times, you get pretty bored with it. Mustang Sally is a great example of this. If I ever have to play that song on stage again, keep the razorblades away from me. But I do enjoy listening to that song. Same goes for stuff like Brown Eyed Girl, etc.
You have to realize that what we play on stage defines our persona and our brand as musicians. While some musicians can get away with being a jukebox on guitar, not all of us want to be that. We just want to do what we are passionate about.
So please, don't take it personal when I tell you I won't be playing any Buffett tonight, or the Eagles. It's not you, it's me, I promise. But sit back and you might hear something you weren't expecting or don't know and fall in love with it!
This seems to be more of an issue at restaurant gigs, where people are there eating/drinking and you just happen to be there playing your music.
We work hard up there on stage/in our corner. If we are playing our own original material, even more so as we bare our souls out there for all to see.
So when you have an audience that doesn't engage with you, it can wreak havoc on your confidence. You start overthinking and analyzing every aspect of your performance. "Am I singing out of tune? "Is my energy not good enough?" "Am I too loud?" "Am I loud enough?" So, instead of focusing on your performance, you are obsessing with whether that person in the corner looking in your direction and talking to their companion is saying negative things about these songs that are essentially your children.
It's all bogus, obviously, the performance is great, and no one is talking badly about you. But when you end a song and hear crickets.....it wears on you, A situation that is easily avoided with a friendly little clap after a song. Doesn't even have to be every song.....just let us know you are still with us and paying attention.
I love you guys, but you are simply not going to be playing my guitar tonight. I once let a very talented and careful musician pick up a very expensive electric guitar of mine. He accidentally knocked into it and on the guitar stand, it fell over and broke a tuning knob.
So, as a rule, no, you cannot play my guitar. And I am not too keen on you joining me for singing duties either. There are exceptions, maybe we have shared the stage before? Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the show, I am here to entertain you tonight.
BUYING ME DRINKS
It is extremely generous of you to offer to buy me a drink. However, I don't drink and perform. I will have a beer or two, but I am a professional. I'm not there to tear the place down. So, if I decline your offer, please do not be insulted. Again, it's not you, it's me.
Bottom line is when you are out there in the wild, and come across a musician doing his/her thing, just enjoy the show. Especially when confronted with a talented musician the excitement and energy can be infectious and you might find yourself doing things you normally wouldn't do.
Like requesting "Tequilla Sunrise" 15 times over the course of 3 hours.
Till next time,