Wow. My little road trip was tiring – yet fulfilling and eye opening. That’s what I call success!
Last week I made my way out to Butler, PA (just outside Pittsburgh) because I lined up a few gigs at coffee houses. Not huge gigs, but the people were so appreciative, boy it felt great to connect with them.
Since the solo acoustic genre is pretty new to me, I had to do a “rubber hits the road” situation for my own knowledge. I had several questions that I needed answered, like –
Do I have enough material for 2 good sets?
Will I get the guitar on the plane?
What travel expenses can I anticipate traveling solo?
What kind of sound systems will I encounter?
Just how big is the USA? 🙂
And so on.
While a jazz trio tour in Europe (of which I have done several) may sound more exotic – it’s really just a different set of circumstances and logistics. I needed (and still need to) learn this new aspect of touring.
First off, let’s just say the music was a hit! I loved connecting with the folks out there. Bruce, the owner of Kairos Coffee (where I played the Saturday night gig) told me that he’d never seen the audience be that attentive before, and stick around for 2 sets.
I was also very curious to see how & what I’d do for a full night of solo guitar. For every 3 parts playing, I did one part shmoozing on stage. We hired a local sound guy who brought a great little PA system, which made that gig a breeze.
Flying with the guitar was stressful. Until now I have flown with small electric guitars which fit in the overhead. I read an article by Pat Kirtley here: https://www.win.net/mainstring/carryon.html but things change every few years and this web page is from 1997!
Luckily I got the axe on the flight. I loosened the strings & packed the neck & headstock joint in the case with bubble wrap (read Pat’s article) and planned to GATE CHECK the guitar. But even so, if the baggage guys are using lifts, or if a flight is turbulent there are no guarantees that an axe will arrive safely.
This was a serious lesson as far as touring with an acoustic guitar. Upon arriving home I called Taylor and the unofficially recommended this guy – https://www.caseextreme.com
Check out the vids on his site, if you are in need of a flight case. He hilariously works up a sweat beating a guitar case up. I ordered one of his cases immediately.
As well, I will need a backup guitar. Not out of attachment and because it’s cool – that’s just reality! (my reality 🙂 )
As far as the area – and mind you I was from out of town – I felt like I was in a Michael Moore movie. I found myself itching during the day wanting to do something and drove over to the Walmart and walked the isles when I couldn’t take any more practicing. Weird. Ok, I know that the US is not all like that but it was a shock to my system to see all these strip malls and huge mega chains, making every place in the USA look and feel so similar.
Another aspect of this that felt particularly good is I just had a sense of “I’m doing what I have to be doing”. This is tricky to describe, because it was my own sense of fearlessness and accomplishment.
Until recently I had this sense that there was a way via promotion, smoke and mirrors, and contacts to get a career going. Of course knowing the right people and working intelligently is important. There are higher visibility events – magazine articles, radio interviews & airplay, TV appearances, hits on a website, etc. But the fabric of playing music is not just that.
Not to get off topic – but allow me to digress for a second. I can’t believe how much music is out there that people don’t actually like – but that is promoted because of an agenda, a connection, and ego trip. Maybe people pretend to like it to seem hip, cool or intellectual. I myself have seen so much music where I find myself scratching my bald head saying “is this touching me?”
When you hear great music it’s undeniable. It touches people and the people demand it because they love it. They come back for more. Just look at Ray Charles, Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, not to mention all the other greats. There’s no denying it. Many jazz musicians, I believe, get de-railed and lose sight of the goal – which is communication (not the greats, though).
That’s the standard I hold for my music. Let’s see if everyday folks like it. Let’s see if they want a CD and feel their souls light up. If the music is on that level – it is for real. I am just at a point in life where I prefer the brutal honesty of this. Life’s too short! I want to be touched by music in the heart – not the head – and would like to do the same for people.
The meat and potatoes of it is the actual playing music for people and communicating. The actual activity of it. It’s about paying the dues to get out there and just do it. Until I did this new acoustic music I experienced an inner holdback, like a pride of saying “I won’t play for less than…” or “it’s not worth it..”.
A wise person once said behind each prideful “I won’t” is really a feeling of “I can’t” – simply hardened over.
Jack Canfield also has a great saying – “99% is a bitch, but 100% is easy”. When I read that I went – “yeah!”.
There is no substitute for getting out there and playing. Why? Because it’s not only music – it’s about people and connecting. The silent dialogue behind the words and music are the true communication, the presence, the sense of interchange and dare I say – love?
Yes, love even with total strangers. Because at the moment you meet – your eyes meet, greetings are interchanged – it’s the same as knowing someone for years. It’s all the same – the souls are in a dance, and energy is shared, given and taken. It feels good.
I did a Sunday workshop and my only attendees were a little girl (age 5) and a young fellow (age 12). I gave both a lesson and simply tried to impart enthusiasm and turn them on and inspire them. Whether it’s a young person, old – whatever – it’s my job to send them off excited and happy through whatever I can churn up with these 10 fingers and 6 strings.
So was the trip worth it? You bet!