Play It Like You Mean It
Don't you love watching an artist, like Springsteen, Walt Wilkins or Robert Earl, glowing as he sings every line and strums every chord with every ounce of his inner being. Or don’t you just love hearing a singer like Bonnie Raitt sing a song like “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (by Allen Shamblin & Mike Reid) that just moves you, even to a tear. It’s the passion.
The audience knows when you don’t mean it. The listener knows when your heart is not in it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re performing at a small bar to an audience of one – – like my collaborator Mike Blakely and I did in Fredericksburg, Texas when we were both getting started, or a large music festival crowd in France like Country Rendezvous where we’ve both played to several thousands with our bands. As to that night in the Texas Hill Country where Blakley and I as a duo outnumbered the audience, he and I gave that audience, whose name was Charlie by the way, the show of his life. Charlie said he was so moved by our songs that he chose to stay that whole night even though he had planned to leave for Fort Worth after he had eaten his Wienerschnitzel and had a couple of German pilsners. I know that at that stage in our careers he wasn’t moved by my guitar playing or Mike’s mandolin playing!
Passion. I think it’s why we keep getting called back to do shows in Europe in places where language barriers may not allow every listener to completely understand every nuance and subtlety of every lyric. We’ve been told by our French, German, and Italian speaking friends that the passion and joy comes through our music, that they can see glimpses into our souls. To me that’s the most rewarding thing an artist can hear from his fans. I’ve told my bandmates that if they ever see me going to the motions on stage and short changing the audience they have the right and obligation to kick me off the stage.
I recently had this discussion with our Swiss promoter about musicians whose hearts and souls or not in what they’re doing anymore. They aren’t fooling anyone but perhaps themselves. I certainly hope I never get to that point—I don’t want to feel on my bandmate’s boots in the seat of my pants.
I’m curious. What artists do you think perform with the most passion?