Wow! Here I am in Nashville with some time to spare between writing sessions, thinking about how amazingly this year has begun.
The first thing that comes to mind is the show we played in Versailles, MO at the Royal Theater, which I don't think I will ever forget. If I could spend an entire year travelling to little cities of this size and play shows for crowds this friendly and appreciative, I would actually consider it an ideal way to tour. I've played for bigger crowds (the theater holds 300 and was nearly full) but rarely has the entire experience seemed so...easy, and completely centered around the art.
When we arrived, we met Elvin, who helped us load in our gear, and along with his son and daughter, mixed our sound. His family is full of accomplished bluegrass musicians, so we were working with people who understood our needs, were efficient and responsive, and utterly friendly. The theater, which was a converted movie theater and still had the decorative neon lights along the aisle walls and a big black velvet curtain in front of which we played, was beautiful. It is now a playhouse and performing arts theater, so we had a huge green room/dressing room, (hot water from the sink to warm our hands!) and was connected to a large storefront next door where they do art shows and community events. There was a stained glass art exhibit the night we played so all the season ticket holders browsed through the art next door and partook of snacks and beverages before heading to our show.
We planned an intense two hour set. The crowd was also interested in hearing a little about me, where my career is headed, where I'm from, and the stories behind my songs. It was such a refreshing change of pace to play to an audience where - no exaggeration - you could hear a needle drop. It was also - no kidding - a bit disconcerting. Every slip of finger on string, every flick of the Djembe, every step, every sniffle, every cough, every whisper of my breath, was heard. As a performer you become more conscious, and it draws more out of you, but you also have to be careful not to become SELF-conscious in the extreme, which is difficult when suddenly everything that is normally muffled by the drone of clinking classes and filtered through the haze of cigarette smoke is suddenly crystal clear and Dolby.
I played only with Michael and BA, and we really played to each other's strengths. The songs were allowed to beathe in that sparser surrounding, and the recording of the night turned out really well. I wouldn't be surprised if some of those cuts end up as bonus tracks on the fan club site or elsewhere.
The trip itself was memorable, because we also had our photographer Kevin Dingman along for the ride, and his sense of humor lends a whole new ambience to the experience. (And let's not take for granted the fact that he continually and uncomplainingly donates his time to photograph us - any of you who've visited the website have seen much of his work). Three of my longtime listeners (and now friends) from Columbia, Mark, Melissa, and Jeannine, went out of their way not only to attend the show but to sell merchandise for me. I KNOW I'm not very good at selling and promoting my own music - I don't know what that says about me, but I have a hard time doing it for some reason - but these three are a force to be reckoned with. Since many in the audience were of an age where I didn't anticipate they'd feel the need to take the CD home with them, I was pelased and surprised at the great sales, and it's due to Jeannine, Melissa, and Mark. I know I say it ad nauseum, but I am blessed beyond measure for the people who surround me and believe in me.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the evening was finding a little local restaurant at which to eat dinner. It's the type of place where you've got to try the special because you know you've never tasted anything like it and never will again - each small town seems to have a slightly different take on something you've eaten thousands of times in your life. To the rear of our table sat Elvin and his family, so we ocassionally bantered over our shoulders at them. Right as we got up to leave, a group of four friendly retirees at the table to our right who had been eating their dinners unassumingly said to me, "don't start the show before we get there!" I figure about half of the people eating there that night were headed to our show afterward (and yes, they knew who I was)! You can't PLAN that kind of experience....it was too cool.
This year is also starting out well, as we got booked to play Senator Chuck Graham's birthday party at MoJo's, started a new recording project with the Hilary Scott Band, and finalized the publishing deal (which I am this very day working on) in Nashville with Matthew Wilder, among other things. I am hoping to write about our first recording session at the Bridge Studio and the current Nashville project today or tomorrow when I get more time to blog; you might hear more blabber from me than you have in a while, which could be good or bad, you choose. Right now I am planning on watching a brainless flick so I am fresh for tomorrow. We've been spending 8 hours each day writing, finishing a song a day - and laying tracks at the same time. It's intense, but invigorating. I never knew creativity 'on demand' could actually be so nearly effortless. Ironic, eh?
GO SEAHAWKS! (I might be watching the SuperBowl with Nashville singer-songwriter Steff Mahan who I just met at the recent Columbia show she played at MoJo's - she's a peach to invite me when she doesn't know me from Eve, but hey, I can't celebrate alone!)