Sunday, January 20, 2013

5 Characters and Music

We musicians all have our war stories. Here are 5 tales into some of the characters I've encounters.  

The Honesty:

Twice I opened up for a major acoustic guitar veteran.  The first show was very humbling.  When I first started playing as a soloist, it was just a novel thing I did just for fun. Fun is good. I'd just get on stage and sweat through the things I was trying to do.  However, when you open up for someone who is clearly more devoted than just having some fun, you can look pretty silly up there.  I learned my lesson.  The second time I opened up for this icon it was a noted difference.  My attitude.  We got to be chatty acquaintances.  I mustered up the courage to ask him for any help he might be able to provide another striving artist.  He said flatly, "I can't offer any help to you. I'd be creating my own competition…".  Although this took me by surprise, I did appreciate his honesty.  

The Brotherly Love:

On the other hand, some artists are not so honest or forth coming.  Years ago, I reached out to a performer that I admired and was excited with the possibility that we might work together.  I wrote him several times about my enthusiasm.  Perhaps it was naive of me to think that because we were both African Americans in a field where there aren't too many, that he'd at least want to connect with me on some level.  I'm talking about acoustic song / songwriters btw.  Anyway, it never happened.  He never responded. I thought, maybe he never received my emails.  I ran into him at a conference in an elevator. He knew who I was, which surprised me.  So I guess he had received my messages. He wouldn't have known who I was otherwise.  Anyway, while in the elevator, he never mentioned anything about it. Neither did I.   Oh well.  I let it go.

The Elitist or Eccentric:

I did a show with a famous concert pianist.  I was struggling to find an accompanist.  Getting desperate, I called him.  
I never expected that he'd say yes.  It was getting close to show time.  I was sweating bullets thinking that maybe I had given him the wrong date.
Finally he showed up. What a relief. I asked if he needed help to bring his gear in.  "There's no piano? You didn't mention that I needed to bring a piano".  Of course he hadn't asked either, and he didn't have a 'portable' one at home.   
Most musicians I've ever played with, have always brought their own gear. What if he hated the piano?

I did the first set with just bass and voice, while we waited for a piano delivery (thanks to one of my friends).   I guess when you're working with the elite you have to be mindful of their requirements. :)
I should point out that this pianist was absolutely worth the wait.

The Ego or Tired Artist:

At a conference I ran into one of the events featured artist.  He and I, along with a few other artists were sitting together and someone said,  "You should let Miche sit in with you".  YES!  He was up for it.  I had to perform earlier that evening at a different location.  I busted my butt to get back to the conference in time just so I could play with this amazing musician.   As his set was coming to a close, I was a little disappointed that he had forgotten about me. These things happen. He was about to play an encore, when someone from the audience shouted "You should bring up Miche…!"  How cool was that?  Too Cool?

This turned out to be one of the most unfun things I've ever done. He never connected with me on stage. No looking at me. No smiling. This was more like work.  After we got through one jam, the audience wanted another song.   Again he never connected, it was stiff and cold.   Afterwards he never said a word to me. The next day at the conference he ignored me.  I fumed about this for hours.  As far as I was concerned there was no reason to be that rude.  Even if he thought I sucked, he could still at least be polite. I have no idea what that was all about.  Maybe he was just tired.

The Good Musicians:

I was in DC for a few days. I reconnected with a woman I used to date in high school (another embarrassing story).
We were walking around Georgetown and came upon a club that was having entertainment that night.  We decided to hang around. When the band showed up, I asked the drummer if they let people sit in.   "Ask Tony."  "Sure man you can sit in."  They brought me up for a song.  What a fun night.  I eventually played most of the evening with them.  At the end of the night, Tony came up to me and handed me some cash.  I was floored.  To pay someone who walked in off the street was beyond the call.  Most musicians who play for a living would never care to be so generous.   To this day, the thought warms me up every time I think of it. These were some very "good" musicians.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Looking Up From The Bottom

They say "You have to hit the bottom before you can rise up…  ".   I've been living with depression all of my life.  I never called it that. In fact, I never thought much about it.  I just excepted an existential perspective on life and events.  Besides, I was much too consumed with playing music to pay attention to such things as the state of my soul, or if I had one, among other things.  

My life as I lived it had exhausted me.  Having distanced myself from music in the last few years, I felt I had no place to go and no place I wanted to go.  I finally broke.  I was in a dark and empty place.   "You have major depression."  I was very uncomfortable, annoyed actually at the suggestion that this was a medical issue.   "Look, it's not like I don't have a ton of reasons to feel the way I do. It's all overly depressing wouldn't you say?!!!".  There's silence and there's silence.   However, it was clear that I needed help… 

Interestingly, it's amazing the things you can see in a dark place.   So I'm now looking up from the bottom.
And as always, I'll do my best to climb out of here.