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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
cowboypoet Help: Start of Folk Career: Guidance? (69* d) RE: Help: Start of Folk Carreer: Guidance? 02 Feb 01


I've been performing off and on for the better part of three decades -- I began in the womb (o,-) -- so here are some observations based on my experience and my own slightly twisted view of life, music, and everything.

You say you suspect that you're "a lousy performer at the moment." If this is true, why do you want to do it? If you're just feeling obligated to be modest, try to get over it. I've heard a number of performers be self-effacing on stage, but not many of them got away with it. You have to believe that you're good enough that people will want to hear what you have to offer -- if you don't, that will come across. In a performer humility is essential, but modesty can be a downright handicap. If you're a good performer people will like to listen to you. If you're not, they won't. It *is* that simple. And there's only one way to find out.

Sometimes no introduction at all is best. Just play the song. When I *do* introduce a song I try to make the introduction part of the performance in some way. I don't do lectures, and I don't like to hear them. I do, however, always say to the audience that if anyone wants to know more about any song they've heard they can feel free to see me after the performance. A lot of people have, and I've been able to introduce them to some great songwriters, or at least satisfy their curiosity.

Do what works for you. Sounds trite, I know, but if you perform a song you don't particularly care about because you think you should -- perhaps because it's historically significant or appropriate to the venue or because someone requested it, your lack of enthusiasm will be the most noticeable thing about your delivery. And it'll be worse if you try to fake it. I've annoyed more than one person by flatly refusing to sing "Happy Birthday To You" because I *loathe* that song, and I'm sure it shows. I'm quite willing to dedicate a song I like to the celebrant, but that's as far as I'll go.

Muck about with the lyrics/tunes/arrangements as much as you like. The audience will tell you whether they like what you did. If *you* really like it, I'm betting they will.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it can be very profitable -- just ask the house band at any Holiday Inn. However, if you want to "make it," especially as a solo performer, you must find your own voice. Take what you like from Martin Carthy and from anyone else you admire, but try to think about what you want to convey with each song -- maybe a change in phrasing or a slight (or major) modification of the lyrics will make the song say better what you want to say, and that's why you're up there. One sure-fire (for me, anyway) way to accomplish this is to try to find several versions of the same song and borrow shamelessly from all of them. If I sing a song I learned from a record by a favorite performer it's hard not to sound just like him or her in my head. If I put together pieces from two or three versions the song becomes mine and sounds like me.

To be brief (though it's *way* too late for that), just be yourself and you'll be fine, or you won't be invited back. Either result will tell you something you probably need to know.

I'll follow this thread with interest -- keep us posted on how you get along. And feel free to say, "I considered everything you suggested, decided to ignore all of it, and am having a grand time." Hey, it's free advice and worth every nickel. Good luck, and remember -- we're all in this together.

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