Many of the artists recording and performing much of the music that we listen to on the radio today have forgotten the key element to a successful song. Emotion. Not to say that the can produce a two minute, thirty second pop single that tweens will love for all of 3 weeks, but they so often do not put their soul into their creation. This is something I cannot understand, being that I as a musician have to pour my heart and soul out into whatever is put onto my records. For me, it is not about the making of money, but the feeling of content that only complete artistic expression can bring. If I were into making only pop singles, I could quite simply put down almost all of my instruments and sing a quirky little tune that gives me no freedom as an musician, or frankly as a person, but this I cannot do. I need my guitars, my amps, my effects, and my intellectual lyrics to get me by from song to song, knowing that the art I created is fresh, human, and true. Otherwise, what good is music in general. If it is nothing more than the release of human emotion, then I release it in full force.
In the past 6 months, I have been in desperate need of a MacBook Pro for recording and live performances, but could not afford anything close to it. My sister is a Apple-head, who at the time I am writing this, has upgraded her iPad to the new iPad 3, which she claims is easier for her to use than her MacBook. This is great news for me- and became ever better news when she agreed to give it to me for my recording endeavors. I now use her MacBook and Garageband for most of my at home recordings and for soundscapes at shows. I run the headphone jack out of the Mac, through a converter into a 1/4″ cable, and finally into a Vox AC4TV. By playing loops through the AC4TV, I can get very spacey, etherial sounds and can keep the tension of the music constant between songs during a performance. Six months ago,I would have never been able to do this. Life can have an empty fruit stand one day, yet the next could be filled with lemons. Keep your head up- stay positive.
So I’ve played either with a band or solo in over 400 different gatherings, locations, and celebrations, and during many of these escapades, I have ended up in strange places. One of the most memorable of these was the time that me and our current band at the time (The Fate) were playing for our bassists sisters’ wedding. Being that the actual wedding was on the beach, and reception a few miles away, we scrambled to break down and set up everything once again in the reception hall- mind you, that we had to do all of this before the hundreds of hungry family members and friends decended among the place. By the time we had finally gotten all of our equipment in working order (no thanks to the 100 degree weather) The throngs of happy, hungry people were waiting at the door. Guitars, amplifiers, and band members still covered in sweat and sand began to perform the 2 hour set without missing a beat, and the wedding gig was a success.
Another strange place to perform was inside of a women’s department store during a clearance blowout sale. The manager being tipped off that I was a somewhat successful musician of the area, called me, needing some type of live performance during the sale. With only 3 days to prepare a two hour set list, I hastily covered old songs that have always been a staple to my solo gigs. Playing in a department store is odd enough, though it only became more awkward when I was asked to set up in front of the women’s pajamas and robes. So I play the first two hours without a hitch, making over $80 in tips an hour, the likes of which I’ve never seen playing small, quiet coffee shops. Once my set is complete, I walk by the manager to inform her that I was going to take a break, and afterward, pack up. She quickly stopped me and said “You don’t understand; the sale is from 5-9pm. You have to play for the entire sale!” I quickly explain to her that I only have 34 songs on the list, and that people do not want to hear the same stuff over and over again, to which she replied “I don;t care what you play as long as you make it creative and can keep it going for the next two hours.” With that, I sat back down, with no lyrics, no chords to play, nothing, yet began to play. I played 28 songs and 3 jam sessions without the need of lyrics or any type of musical aid. I ended up making almost $400 in tips alone and made the company $3,000 more than expected due to the attraction of attention.
A shorter, yet still interesting place was during a high school testimony session with my friend and bassist Caleb Barefoot on guitar. (Caleb is also an accomplished guitar player as well) For two and a half hours without break, we had to play fingerstyle acoustic melodies that were very dark in nature, in order to keep the mood serious throughout the meeting. This also happened to be the same stage we played a rockabilly christmas show for a high school PTF meeting during the holidays a few years before.
Finally, one of the most bizarre and chilling places I’ve played was my own uncle’s funeral. Playing only two short songs atop a small stage in the funeral home parlor, I sang down to the casket that held my uncle, who passed away at just 45 from cancer. Not only was this very difficult to follow through with, but I also had to play a graveside rendition of Amazing Grace as the funeral was closed out.
I have played in many quirky places; from art galleries, community colleges, churches, coffee houses, street corners, barns, even attics, but cannot write or even recall all of them now. Being a musician will take you to strange places. Sometimes good, other times not as much, but you will always remember that no matter where you are or how awkward the circumstances may be, you will be remembered for playing in these awkward places.