Lessons from music #1: Stay the course

Lessons from music #1: Stay the course

I was discussing the slings and arrows of artistic fortune (or lack thereof) with my friend Bernard in Manly last Thursday night. We went round in circles for awhile. I ate too much, we both gave the claret a wee nudge and then we began to hone in on something.

To create is to expose yourself to judgment, and for those of us familiar with the arctic wind of anxiety – judgement, depending on your state of mind – can be a helluva thing.

What to do? Stay the course.

Some memories swam to the surface.

A dark nightclub. Kings Cross, Sydney. DC, the co-producer of my first recording, has asked me to play a warm-up set for another band he’s working with.

They are an astonishingly¬†good three-piece zombie rockabilly band led by 6-foot platinum blonde guitar wielding genius. She’s equal parts terrifying and compelling.

I am a boring middle-class singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar. I am not cool.

I panic. I do not stay the course. I am blown hither and yon. Hither and yon!

I should’ve played my show and doubled down on the quietness of my music. I’ve since discovered there’s power in quietude.

What I did was try to fit the frame by throwing the switch to vaudeville, zombifying (it can be a word…) my songs and thrashing wildly at my acoustic guitar like a hot-faced primary school kid in his first playground fight. Tragic. I abandoned all respect for myself. The audience, quite rightly, abandoned all respect for me too. This creates an awful empty sold-out feeling for everyone. Don’t do this.

Stay the course.

A venue somewhere in the American south. I’m working with The Black Peppercorns. As we soundcheck we discover that there’s been a mix-up – no one knows the show is on today, they think it’s on tomorrow. We’ll be in another city tomorrow. The show must go on. There are more people in the band than the audience. Kevin Prosch – the band’s leader – doesn’t pull the vaudeville switch. He simply plays one of the best shows of the entire tour…to perhaps five people. He respects himself, his music and those five people. It’s an important lesson. Do this.

Stay the course.

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