You are an original. Admit it, youare! There is no one like you, and you want people to know that. As an artist it is key to your long lasting success to be able to communicate that.
Your recordings, your show, your promo materials, your website – everything needs to reflect what makes you unique!
So how do you do it from onstage? It’s a massive subject woven through my teachings, but I do want to touch on a few things.
I remember the first time I taught at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s yearly event. About 1600 musicians (pickers) from all over the world attend. I was a little apprehensive. Would they accept me? (I was a rocker after all.) Would I step on toes? (Bluegrass music has many long standing traditions.)
But I found a diversity of people at the event. In fact one of the label heads who put out the Alison Krauss, Robert Plant project was there, and I sensed that he, along with the others, were there to learn. That encouraged me.
As I taught a Live Music Makeover class with one of the bluegrass bands that was attending, I realized again that conceptually this was no different than any other music. The things that make a great show were the same.
It doesn’t matter if I’m working with a singer/songwriter, a rock artist, a hip hop artist, a pop artist, a jazz/blues artist, a bluegrass group, a country act, a military rock cover band… these three things remain the same:
They have a unique thing going on (hopefully they do!)
They don’t want to be like anybody else (they are not), and
They don’t want to do what everybody else is doing onstage. (But they are!)
My job as their live producer is to make sure that doesn’t happen – that they don’tdo what everybody else is doing onstage! But what does that really mean? How does an artist express themselves so that that an audience gets what they are about? What does it take to connect to the people sitting in the seats? (Without changing who we are!)
The first question is this – what keeps us from accomplishing that? It’s a massive question. It could be:
Not knowing what to do onstage. (For instance, do you know about putting the correct pressure on the audience in each song? Or how about establishing onstage relationships? Do you know about bailouts, working an area, or misdirection?)
Why something should be done onstage. (Do you know why we should move to a certain place onstage to connect with our audience more? Why should you “leave space” during parts of your songs? Do you know why some songs should be sung while sitting on a stool?)
When it should be done. (When should we put a trash can ending on our song so we can listen to our audience? When should the “fun moment” be done in the live show? When do we talk to the audience?)
How to do it (Can you direct the audience’s attention to the right thing so they get it? How do you lead audience participation? Have you learned how to do pivots, cross-steps, and half-steps?)
The irony in this is we fear that if we learn these things it will make us like everybody else. Or worse, make us cheesy or hokey. Wrong! That is a huge mistake!
When I was working on my book that teaches the basics of my Live Music Method, I realized how many things there are that can be learned, understood, and practiced by any artist willing to put the time into it.
And once they’ve understood, woodshedded, rehearsed, and gotten comfortable with these fundamentals and techniques, it will not only make their live show great – it will make it original. Just like them!