A sleepy-but-happy lady writes to you from her American Airlines flight from Dallas to London.
Do you ever have one of those gigs where everything just seems to go right? And you're not sure why? And you come off stage feeling like a rock star? We had one of those gigs on this last tour in Texas. And it was about time - we'd spent a good few weeks at home getting rather settled in our domestic lives - the novelty of laundry in your own washing machine, home-cooked meals etc… A lady had brought her entire choir of high-schoolers to see the show and later sent us a wonderful message via the magic of Facebook. Of course, it's always great to hear from people after a concert, every artist is curious about what people think - whether it's for honest feedback, or a secret fishing for compliments - but what struck me most was this quote from her own choir director, when she was at school. She shared this with me:
"You never know what your audience members are going through in their lives. Always perform for the saddest person so that you may allow them the relief from their troubles, if only for that one moment."
Do you ever have one of those gigs where you want to do absolutely anything other than go on stage? Whether it's because you've been traveling for 35 hours and haven't had a shower yet, or because you're trying to fit it in amongst an insanely busy "real-life" schedule, it happens from time to time. Usually the feeling dissolves once your epic heels hit the stage, but sometimes it can be a real effort to shake it off. I contemplate this:
We don't know the state of each heart that walks through the club/ auditorium/ theatre door. I'm one of those endearing people who care a lot about detail. You know the kind I mean, everyone loves them… ;) I can't help it. One of my abundant flaws is that when I notice something "imperfect", it makes me worried or grumpy, and distracts me. Sometimes to the point of screwing up whatever might come next. I don't know why I'm wired that way, but I combat that every gig, with varying success. My eternal struggle is not letting that stand in the way of the message of the song. After all, doesn't the audience pretty much always notice totally different things to the performer?!
After our concert (in Tyler, Texas, with Clearly Vocal), a woman came up and spoke to Oliver. She told him that over this last year her husband had come through cancer, and that one of the songs that had particularly encouraged them in that time was "After The Storm", by Mumford & Sons. This is one of our newest arrangements for our live show (courtesy of our beloved Tom Anderson), and there is no way we could have anticipated what hearing this song would mean to this lady.
What we can do, though, is think about the "message" in our repertoire. We might obsess over the detail of this, that and the other, but if the lyric or concept is strong and you deliver it with integrity, your performance already has purpose - regardless of accuracy etc. The musical finesse you add to those bones only make it more powerful. That's not to say every song needs to have the same emotional depth - but I am often surprised at how overlooked this emotional shade can be.
In the competitions I've heard or judged, not that many groups choose to do a ballad. Even fewer have really stabbed me in the heart with it. But the group that wins, will usually be the group that, after making you laugh and boogie, can make you shed a sneaky tear. You need some good lyrics for that, and a stonking good arrangement.
Please leave a message... you never know how much somebody might need to hear it.