Playing a song is like in playing golf or shooting pool, if you take a somewhat “distance attachment” approach, you pot more frequently. All the better when combined with “a dose of judgement”, and is best if you can simultaneously apply “care”.
An artist in the room is responding to, and/or intertwined with, what’s happening with the people in the room, there is an exchange taking place. Don’t be put off because music was highjacked by the DJs, so of course, there is a greater need than ever for live music and musicians. I have seen all ages responding in the most loving ways as to suggest that people crave live music and musicians. The DJ is to the musician, like the photographer to the painter; limited and compromised as an artist.
Being an artist is being true to yourself in your performance, however it suits you at the time. Entertaining is paying attention to people; giving to them, and caring about them.
This book is for the frontman, bandleader, or soloist. Someone who takes responsibility for the flow, pace, structure, material selection, engagement, and many dynamics relating to audience relationship. It addresses the need to be concerned with the way something is delivered as much as what and where it is being delivered.
I hope my range of experience can be useful to ease a path for performers to deliver meaningful material. To help people put their mind to what they really want to do. To marry the logistical side of performance with the art. If you want to exercise any authority, then natural talent only gets you so far; it doesn’t take you all the way. You also won’t get all things right all in one gig, but enclosed are helpful ideas to review from time to time.
I had a slot playing on a beautiful Yamaha concert grand in the Westfield shopping centre, Shepherd's Bush London, in the Gucci/DKNY section. I wasn’t paid at all by the centre but playing every Sunday I would pick up jobs like an engagement party out in Sussex at some country estate.
One day a gentleman came by and stood for a while with his wife as I played, then he asked me when I finished if I would go to his hotel, I assumed to meet with him at a hotel he was staying at in London’s West End to discuss some one-off gig. But it was to his hotel, one of many he owned; he was Dr Tan Sri Khoo Kay Peng, a Malaysian businessman and chairman and major shareholder of Laura Ashley plc. as well as owning this hotel chain among other businesses.
I packed up my rig, got in the car and every two minutes my phone would ring with someone from his entourage asking if I was ok, if I knew the way etc. I arrived and his stretch Rolls Royce was at the door, and was told to park my van directly behind it. They opened the door for me, and standing at the door to meet me was the General Manager, Andrew Hollett, and a bunch of staff, all at attention. I was offered wine and chocolates as they welcomed me in.
I was then ushered downstairs to one of the hotel’s restaurants “Bel Canto”, an opera restaurant in the basement, where the “stars of tomorrow” from the London Opera school would serve your meal and every fifteen minutes break into song.
We sat and I played for two hours, me, the GM, Dr Khoo, his wife and an entourage of lawyers and bodyguards. He would sit beside me and try to join in on the piano at times and his touch was that of a sledgehammer, I had to encourage a perhaps more sensitive approach. Eventually I said, “okay so what’s going on?” He switched into business mode and we sat at one of the big tables discussing a price for me to play three hours a night three nights a week (eventually it became four hours a night four nights a week, and for three years). Then Dr Khoo asked, “do we pay you more than Westfield?” I answered him honestly.
A CLEAR VIEW
Performance is a great place to learn about yourself because an audience can be both loving and unforgiving in a very truthful way. Even if the money is not so good, the payoff is still huge. Not only do you come out from under the cloud of whatever you are having a hard time with; willful blindness, rigidity, prejudices against you (or ones you hold)—but it also brings a strong natural drive to move forward in an accurate positive direction.
You also come into yourself in a very true sense, and all things around you that are true are recognised, including a capacity for compassion which becomes much more relative. You get a clear view of the world and surpass many problems created by a lack of expression.
But what is that switch that gets flicked, that caused you to become deeply creative and confident during and after a good gig? It is that you are no longer so self conscious. But why? It is because you opened up and have been expressed to a group of people, and accepted. This is not a small thing. And so thereafter the more deep-seated hang-ups simply disappear into some wiser context naturally. This is being happy with who you are and what you are. While they are still different, and one does not excuse the other, but like said they enhance each other if you strive for both.
Mental health can be a state of mind
Don’t think me rude or worse unkind
I mean to say try not to be blind
With expression you can change
and a new perspective find
It’s not a quiz, or an intricate game,
but safe never is
and doubt is the brother of shame
Success depends on taking responsibility for timing as well as speed. It’s a fine balance. If you consider an idea too long prior to expression, you lose something necessary to make the communication effective. Your concentration has to be so that just one second before the word, you have to know what it means as well as the note. A rhapsody of melody and contemplative symphony.
It’s the same reason that Marlon Brando preferred using an earpiece with lines fed to him, heard for the first time there and then; the freshness of a random song-pool makes for a similar greater connection to a piece.
“Playing the game is better than winning the game.”
“Having an excuse may not be an excuse.”
“Be modest, be happy.”
“May your needs and wants find harmony in your will.”
“There are easier and more difficult truths.”