Well? How Did I Get Here?
When I was little kid, I laid awake at night and dreamed of sitting in front of an audience and singing my songs and they liked them. It was never superstardom or any such life, just the basic feeling that, "hey, they dig it."
That feeling never leaves me these days when I'm on stage. I'm always thunderstruck, gobsmacked, if you will, by the notion that people dig what I do.
Tonight was an amazingly fun show at The Homosassa Riverside Resort. I love playing the top deck at the Yardarm Lounge because you can see the Homosassa River really well and the breeze is fantastic as is the sunset. I knew today would be sketchy due to weather reports, but I decided to gamble and set up anyway.
You all are used to the bar solo performer, dutifully playing the hits that they didn't write and looking like they'd rather be having teeth pulled while tossing back shots and you think, "why in the world are they here, anyway?" I've always thought that every moment of stage time should be spent doing what you like to do and, hopefully, you can embrace an audience and bring them along for the journey. This kind of social math hasn't always worked for me and it's taken some time to get to this point. Fact is, I used to clear rooms. True. I'd have my keyboard set up on the stage, folks would come in and sit down, happily expecting good stuff. Then, I'd show up, start to play, and one by one they'd find reason to leave. It never put me off of performing, but it did give me reason to think "what do I need to do to keep them in their seats?" And sometimes, "how did I get here?"
These days, sure there are still tough crowds, but I have cultivated a show that changes due to the venue and whims of the audience. Some places, I'll play all originals while others see a mixture of originals and covers. Other times, it's a sort of blend; my approach to traditional music. Songs that I didn't write, but have arranged to put my characteristic stamp upon them.
If you work a circuit in any form, you'll hopefully find people who will come to see you again and again because they enjoy what you do and that goes hand in and with buying records and paying attention to when you'll be back in the neighborhood. Fans are an amazing group of people and I count myself as one of them; a fanboy for artists who can do no wrong in my book. I just find myself lucky and blessed to be counted as someone to whom those same rules apply.
If someone that you know requests a song that you've written, it's pretty freaking cool. If someone that you don't know sits in the audience and sings along with every word of a song that you wrote; that's amazing. That happened tonight as I rolled out a double-dose of songs from "Dulcimer Rock." I was tickled to see someone in the audience singing along with "Time Bomb" and "Crazy Feels Like." It's a full-circle round kind of a thing. They come to a show, they like what they see and hear, buy a CD and then come back to another show and have, by then, memorized the words and music to the point of being able to sing along with you. Friends, I can't think of higher praise than that for a musician.
I'm not braggin'. I'm freakin'. I'm giddy.
There are some that put me on a pedestal like a rock star, but I'm just a schmo who pulled it together late in life. In my mind, I'm sort of the cosmic version of a pull-up; just narrowly missed the wall while trying to sink a torpedo into the Death Star. It wasn't long ago that I cleared rooms, and I'm not very far removed from that, in my mind. Every artist has self-doubt, and some are better than others in dealing with that. Stagecraft is a very intense mastery, and i feel that I still wrestle with it sometimes. It all depends on so many variables. Your current state of artistry, the time of day, the color of your shirt, the mood of the audience, your breath, whether you had milk or not, The Eye Of The Tiger, it all comes into play. If you stand on The Rock, you've got a chance. If you don't, you're a rudderless ship and second-guess yourself into oblivion.
As I teach folks in my "Performing For Others" workshops, being confident stems from the concept that you are meant to be doing what you're doing for a reason. Once you plant yourself in that flower bed, the doubts melt away and you are free to sprout skyward towards the sun. But that doesn't mean that you grow jaded to the process; the sharing of of music is still a highly personal act. Would that everyone could experience the feeling of knowing that you have made some sort of connection to the point where people will not only come to see you in concert, but also be so familiar with your music as to sing along with you as you perform. As I'm still knocked out by the fact that we can send gigabytes of data wirelessly through the air, from our computers, over our heads, and into printers, so I'm still tripped-out by the sight of people singing along to my original tunes.
And I don't want to ever get jaded and expect that it is to be so. I always want to be amazed. What a connection that is.
So, how the hell did I get here?
This is it: no matter how rocky the road has been, the desire to make and share music has been strong. It's in you and it's got to come out. There is no fabricating the need to make music. Either you are a musician or you're just a calculating fraud who is trying to use this language for your own ill-gotten gains. And if you have the need to make music, then you will sally forth, no matter what the response, and you will continue to find ways to improve, move forward and excel until the communication of the art is realized. Just like we all desire to be understood, so musicians, and other artists, desire to connect with others. It's a grand gift if you can keep it and it's an elusive obsession if you fumble it on the catch.
I tell you this because it never gets old. I mention it because I know that everyone has the gift of music. The Great Spirit, God, Divine Otherness, whatever you want to call it, the Root Of Us All, bestowed this gift upon us at birth and either it's encouraged or discouraged. I don't believe that some were given the gift of music and some weren't. It's a language, it's an understanding, it's a bridge. It transcends borders of spoken language in ways that can barely be fathomed. It connects us more than any other thing besides, breath, soul and blood and skin. Music. We all have it. We all want to share it. We all want to connect while using it. No wonder it's one of the most powerful means of fellowship that we have today.
I'd like to think that I got here by dreaming and believing, no matter what. I'd like to think that you got there, or are getting there, the same way. Rock stars are constructs of the media. When it all boils down to the distilled essence of who we are and why we make music, we are all equal in our efforts to tap into the core of our being where the seed of music begins. From there, it's what we do with it that enables our growth and our reception. It should never get old when your spirit is committed to it. And if your spirit is committed to it, it will never get old or common or passe'.
"Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry." - Peter Gabriel, "Here Comes The Flood"