I seem to be in some sort of waking dream. I flew to Europe last Sunday not sure what this experience would be like. My French agent had earlier planned a longer tour for me, but due to visa restrictions we were limited on performances this time. I was very excited about opening for the legendary American band Cock Robin, but could not have imagined, in my wildest hopes, all the wonderful experiences I would have, and all the possiblities this short trip would open for me. I am not even sure where to begin, as the last two days have been an endless string of fabulous anecdotes and amazing surprises.
I was very nervous for my first performance of the two openers I would do for Cock Robin at La 2Deuche, a very nice theater venue in the Auvergne region of France. Agnes (my agent) and I drove to the venue with plenty of time to spare and I waited anxiously to meet Peter and Anna of Cock Robin. I could hear their sound check reverberating through the venue. I started recognizing some of the songs Agnes and I had been listening to during the day. Not only are Peter and Anna (the two founding members of Cock Robin) amazingly talented, but the French musicians they are touring with to promote their new album are also some of the finest I've heard. Their performances left me with goosebumps, and tons of energy - those two things do not always go hand in hand, but with this band, it does. I would be thrilled to see them live again and again. Their songs are different each night, oozing with creativity and complexity. I was so honored to share the stage with them these two nights. Peter Kingsberry has written some of the best songs I've ever heard - and even with the fame Cock Robin has achieved, more people need to hear these songs! Everyone needs to hear these songs!
As for my performances, I was nervous on a number of levels. I always am more nervous for solo shows than I am for shows with a full band, or even just one other musician supporting me. Carrying the entire show by yourself makes you hyper-aware of every note, every sound, every whisper, every breath. You can't escape the sensations your mind is throwing at you even while you try to focus on the music. I was also nervous because it would be only my third time presenting to the French audience, an audience that had come there for the main act, a band that has been famous in Europe (Agnes compared their fame in Europe to that of Elvis Costello, or Sheryl Crow to give just a couple of examples from the French perspective) for about thirty years. And I was to be the unknown quantity, not speaking their language, and hoping they would accept my orginal music, which they had never heard before. With all of these things working on my nerves, I came out onstage and in my limited French was able to say "Good evening La2Deuche, how's it going? My name is Hilary Scott! Let's go!" Their positive response gave me a second's thrill, and then I immediately plunged into my song And Just which won the international division of the Festival Degli Autori songwriting competition in Sanremo, Italy this past June. (I will be heading to Rome on Tuesday to record the album I was awarded for my win with producer Euro Ferrari). The audience response was incredible. Not only were they paying absolute attention but they were laughing at my lame attempts at humor with a bastardized mix of English and French, and whistling and applauding and motivating me more and more with each song. The set list was: 1. And Just 2. Help (brand new song!) 3. Loser Blues 4. My Friend 5. Calls From Springfield 6. People on a Train
After the set, I was flooded by kind words from so many people working on the technical side of things, from the stage manager to the tour manager for Cock Robin, to the sound technicians, to the proprietors of the venue. Some of the truly kind things they said were, "your voice is incredible, so warm," and "you are superb, just voice and guitar, absolutely stunning," and receiving comparisons to Rickie Lee Jones, Emmylou Harris, and Joan Baez certainly didn't hurt my feelings at all. :) (I hope it doesn't sound incredibly snobbish to write those compliments down here, but I'm afraid I will forget them if I don't record them, and they really meant so much to me). I also couldn't believe how many people, while purchasing CDs and asking for autographs came forward to offer contact names to my agent Agnes for press, TV, etc. The proprietor was so pleased with how things went, he wants to bring me back to La 2Deuche in the future, perhaps for a double-headlining show with another singer-songwriter. I am very excited about that.
I've played some big shows and had some amazing experiences, even been treated a little like a rock star before, but this venue really has it together! Nice rooms and great spread for the artists, which was full of fruit, wine, chocolate, cookies, and more! (If this was Cock Robin's rider, I give them massive cred for the Twix and the peanut M&M's, right on!) I also thank CR for the pre-show-calm-your-jitters-sip of whiskey, and the venue for the amazing catered dinners we ate two nights in a row. Woo! Good stuff. I also send a special thank you to Cock Robin's crew, their stage manager treated me like I was one of them, although he had no obligation to even say hello to me - he could have just made sure I didn't step on any of the band's cables! :) He actually took care of placing and removing my guitar, un-plugging and plugging it, and tuning it right before my set. I enjoyed not having to worry about the technicalities so I was free to think about the music I was about to present. Made my job a lot easier! Most of all though I must thank Cock Robin, Peter and Anna, and all the musicians for embracing me (literally and figuratively) and my music. I know we will have more adventures in the future, and the experiences with this band created memories I will carry with me forever. And the sound tech offered to record my show the second night so I will have recorded memories to share with all of you, as well!!
Upon our arrival for the second night of opening for Cock Robin, the proprietor of La2Deuche gave us a copy of a newspaper article that was released that day, reviewing the show the night before. We had never spoken to a journalist, never sought out any press, and yet there was this brief, but incredible quote: "after an astounding opening performance by Hilary Scott - (what a voice!!!!)" and then the continuation of the review of Cock Robin's show. Agnes was thrilled since opening acts usually don't get press and often not positive press, so it was really a boost. After the show, I had the chance to talk with Anna and Peter and the other musicians and crew - and everyone was absolutely wonderful. I especially appreciated the fact that Anna and Peter have an incredible wealth of experience and have had the kind of heady success that might turn many people into divas, but are two of the kindest and most grounded people I've met. I felt a kinship with them in terms of how they are approaching their music now - touring a new album, which was produced independently, and mixing up the performances each night with the sort of attitude that "we can't rest on our laurels - there is always more to discover!" I was inspired.
A fun story from the second night is that when Peter thanked me for my opening set from the stage, he also noticed one empty seat in the front row, and asked what that was about. The man sitting beside the empty seat yelled out, "this is for Hilary!" The entire crowd laughed and applauded and I stood up and walked across the front row to the open seat. This kind of bantering continued throughout the show, and the crowd warmed up and became more and more enthusiastic. About halfway through the show, Agnes and I got up to dance right in front of the stage. When performers see people dancing, their energy increases, and the audience feels this. When the audience sees that people are not shy and are getting up, they follow, and the reciprocal energy in the room is increased exponentially. It was just a fabulous experience. It was also Anna's birthday and they gave her a cake onstage, and afterwards we celebrated with some champagne Agnes brought. All in all, two truly fabulous shows, and the kind of experiences that were even better than I could have wished for.
This blog has grown very long, so I will write about La Bamboche in my next installment. Thanks for reading!