Sunday, June 14, 2009
You and Puccini Made Me Cry
I heard an interview recently with Elvis Costello on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. He was referring to what he tells parents who ask advice about their children pursing music and he said for them to be sure they are pursuing “music and not fame because fame will disappoint you but music rarely will.” He went on to explain how the emotional commitment to making music is why you anyone should do it. We’ve certainly seen that play out on American Idol which promises that with enough ratings, money and buzz they can make someone a star. But then what? Recently I performed a full-moon house concert in a wonderful back yard patio that was a magical experience and a reminder to me on how to ride the emotional and logistical roller coaster of pursing music as my life. At some times when I’ve sworn off music it has pursued me. Here is the question that arose after this gig: How do you know if you’ve done a good job or not?
Leading up to a gig promoters, venue owners and the like get nervous and will say something about how many of “your” people they are expecting you to bring, what kind of songs they would like to hear and what they think you should play. You learn to smile, not get defensive and be confident and cool. Your thinking of all the press releases, personal fliers, emails, facebook and MySpace blasts you’ve sent out the favors you called in and guest list you typed up, the sound system you hauled from the parking lot two miles away. Not to mention the blogs, videos, hours of rehearsal tailoring of your outfit and set list and even the banter between songs you’ve worked up. That is cool though. That is what is expected on my end. I mean I’m the musician/entertainment and these people coming have spent 40-plus hours at their jobs that week and are making an investment in me and my goal is to deliver and well-paced set that will make people feel uplifted in some way. Boredom is a killer so I remind myself keep it short Randy! Keep the banter short! Push the CD’s. Don’t say “well anyway.”
Thing is that after the show you rarely hear from the people who booked you. I make it a practice to send a note thanking them for hosting me etc., and sometimes get a response but often am left with the feeling of wonderment. CD sales, new mailing list email addresses can somewhat quantify success and certainly talking with people afterwards and getting their heartfelt compliments is some real feedback. One phrase that performers rarely like to hear after a show is the dreaded, “So how did you feel about the show?” Yikes! Not a door I like to open. Doing shows away from the Native American flute festival circuit allows me to do my singer-songwriter material. What I have found is that people want to be moved. When I do a moving or poignant song they are with me and want more of “that.” People still come up and tell you which song they liked most and you try not to think—well what about the other 110 minutes? But any compliment is better than striking down my equipment alone with no one talking to me. That is a clear message. http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb148/Lonegranger/houseconcert2.jpg
So as I was playing the other night to a lot of strangers who paid $20 each to hear me I looked at the full-moon rising and reminded myself just how absolutely awesome it is that I am playing a concert of music I’ve written and rehearsed and I am communicating emotions through the vibrations of my music. I am relaying an experience through this sound system, these instruments and all of us are sharing this each with our own personal story. This isn’t a feeling of power but of humility and I couldn’t be any more “in the moment” than I am. And as I felt all that I knew I was pursuing the music in the purest sense and not whether I can pay my bills next month. After this concert I met wonderful people one who was the percussion director at the local university, a music professor from New York and a dance teacher from the east coast and an Apache woman (part of my heritage as well.) You never ever know who is there so you have to give everything, step up and hold nothing back. A woman asked to take my photo to paint a portrait which leads to a brisk discussion amongst people as to what ethnicity my facial features resembled most. The painter’s husband came back to tell me that a man hasn’t made him cry in 12 years until I sang my song “Hello Daddy” and that man was Puccini. I smiled and thought “Job well done Randy.”
June 25th at 7:00 PM I do a requested return performance at the Hillsboro Community Center in historic Hillsboro, NM. Check my calendar for details. June 27th I do a short set at the Women’s Club building across from Pioneer Park in Las Cruces, NM part of the Southern New Mexico Pride rally. I’m on at 11:00AM. I’m on Facebook at facebook.com/lonegranger. Here is the video performance of Hello Daddy from the house concert. Sorry it is a little dark.