Let's Get it Started
Maybe like some of you, for years I'd been thinking about getting back into (or just starting) music but it never seemed the right time. Work, family, house projects...feel free to fill in the blanks with your own "stuff"... Every so often, I'd have a few adult beverages at a karaoke bar, sing one or two drunken songs and get the bug to jump in. Then a little over three and half years ago, I decided I would make the investment and buy a guitar and some sound equipment and see what happens. Ok, to be completely honest, I bought an expensive guitar, lots of equipment and lots of lights. I should now admit to you that I have this weakness, flaw, strength, depending on how you look at it, of going all in once I make up my mind. Sometimes it's not always thought out as well as it should be.
My first thought was to start a band. So I began practicing and placed ads in all the usual places, craigslist, facebook, etc., "Singer/rhythm guitarist looking for band, blah, blah, blah..." I wasn't really even sure what kind of music I wanted to play but I was certain that joining a band was what I needed to do. I met a few other musicians but nothing really ever materialized and I was frustrated it wasn't moving faster.
Then one day my very good friend and neighbor, Angie, told me that she started Vino-Van-Go, a for-hire private touring company for local wineries, and Fawn Creek was looking to start a Ladies Night on Thursdays. She asked if I would I be interested in booking a gig. Naturally, I said yes even though I didn't know half a dozen songs (see weakness, flaw, strength comment). The next couple of weeks, I practiced constantly trying to get enough songs to fill three hours. I calculated the timing of each song, how much talking I would have to do in between songs, break times. It was close but I settled on 32 songs and hit the mark.
Of course when I actually played the gig, my nerves got the better of me and I played every song super fast. A 3:45 song turned into 2:30. I knew I was in trouble when my first set list was done and my watch said I still had 36 minutes to go before break. I can laugh about it now, but at the time, it was sickening.
What happened next, however, turned what could have been a career ender into a surprisingly fun and inspiring night. And I learned a couple valuable lessons that stick with me still and hopefully will help you too, if you're just starting out: 1) If you're honest with your crowd, people generally have your back. When I explained what was going on, the polite golf claps between songs suddenly turned into enthusiastic applause. It was if they became very interested in what I was doing and I could feel their support to get me through. 2) You are you're own worst critic. The vast majority of people don't hear when you make a mistake. Don't grimace or make a face. That's a dead giveaway. You will make mistakes at every gig. No one gets it perfect every time. Use it to focus the next time you come to that part, but otherwise let it go and keep going. 3) Be friendly and gracious. We all learned this in kindergarten and its still true. After the show, I sat with a few tables and just talked. Not even about music but things like where people where from, what brought them to the winery and their interests. Think of it as a first date and you're just getting to know someone. After a while, it's just people sitting around a table drinking wine. That's pretty comfortable. And ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS thank the establishment for inviting you to their place. Remember you are a guest sharing your talent. There are lots of doors to places you may want to play at that aren't wide enough for a big head.