Whenever I see fans at one of my shows or when I go to a concert myself the stage is set, the band starts playing and the audience watches and enjoys the songs and the performance. Such was the case last week when I was soooooo lucky to go and see one of my favorite performers of all time......James Taylor here in San Diego. However, I know from my own experience that the polished and effortless performance that we see as fans takes an incredible amount of work before the show and even, at times during the performance. Today I wanted to share a little bit about that planning and work schedule with you so you can see all the things that make up a great concert for the fans!!!
Let's talk about the prep work for my upcoming show (Shameless Plug Alert!) this Sunday June 26th at the SD Fair on the Plaza Stage between 8-10 pm. First off, this show is different as it is a full two hours of performance time. The band (The Exiles) and I have only been together for a few short weeks so the rehearsal times have been limited by everyone's "real life" schedules. The previous shows were at 45 minute to one hour so a set with 9-11 songs is enough to fill the hour with my chats between songs with the fans.
With the expanded show, we need to fill in with more songs, which means more rehearsals. Because the band is looking to me for the set list, I need to determine which songs I want to play out of my portfolio of originals and covers, make sure I have the lyrics and chords printed out for the guys and make sure that there are sufficient notes for them to know where the stops and changes occur as well as how I want the songs to be arranged. It is all exhausting, but necessary for small shows and big shows alike.
Once I have the set list put together and the rehearsal times arranged, I need to get together with the guys and actually practice the songs. A typical rehearsal takes two to three hours and sometimes more if we are learning new material. The guys are all great musicians so the wasted time is kept to a minimum, but by the end of it, we are all ready for some R&R. We have to bring all the equipment to the rehearsal space, set up, practice, tear it all down and head home. Each rehearsal is around a six-hour commitment from everybody. Needless to say that with regular jobs as well, it can be hard to get all the rehearsal time in you may need. This week is a great example as my guitarist has two gigs of his own and rehearsal time for those, plus a recital on Saturday, the day before our show!!!
Anyway, we will try to rehearse at least once a week and more often if it is leading up to a show. The rehearsals themselves can be great fun at times. Last rehearsal, when one of the guys was taking a break, Joe, the guitarist broke out in a Led Zeppelin tune which soon saw Bill, the keyboardist coming in and soon we were rockin’ and rollin’. Great fun!!! There are ideas and changes that need to be dealt with in every rehearsal as the whole idea is to have the performance be as polished as it can be but we are always working on little details in the arrangements as well to make each song ‘pop’ as much as possible. A little vocal inflection here, a little four bar guitar or piano solo there and things keep sounding better and better.
Once we have done all the rehearsal we can leading up to the show, the logistics of doing the show are next. This includes things like: wardrobe, makeup, hair as well as getting everyone to the gig, equipment transport, setup and teardown, sound, video, merch handling as well as any last minute items. I was going to a gig up in LA several months ago with a guitarist I was working with at the time. Half way to LA and he informs me that he has a broken string on his guitar and we need to stop for a new one!!!! WHAAAAAAAT!! At least he didn’t wait until show time! Unbelievably, there was a guitar center just off the freeway and we were able to get the string and get it put on, but the extra time it took almost made us late for the show. We aren’t together any longer (not because of that) and I vowed never to be unprepared for any gig. As a result, I have multiple pieces of back up equipment and make sure that the band does as well. Strings and drumsticks break, but it doesn’t cost much to have an emergency backup.
I can tell you one thing that is tough for me to do; that is picking out my wardrobe. Everyone wants to be comfortable in the way they dress, but high heels are a pain!! Right girls?? Even so, I just remember the first time I saw Katy Perry perform on TV. She was wearing a bejewelled party dress with super high heels and she looked absolutely fantastic! Her performance was great (I kissed a Girl), but what stuck with me was the way she looked. I wish I could afford a clothing budget like hers, but working part time at Hollister means I need to get my look at Forever 21 instead of Prada. Hair and makeup are also a big deal. I generally spend about an hour and a half on hair and more on makeup trying to get the look I want. Not able to pay a makeup artist or hairdresser, so I have needed to learn the basics and improvise where necessary.
Listen, I have been ranting on and on to you about the process and I want you to know that with all the work that we have to do to get ready for a show, once I am up on that stage and standing in front of the audience, all I can think of is that I would rather be there than any other place in the world. I may not have as many fans as Katy or Ed Sheeran or Halsey, but each show, each song and each day that I put in perfecting my craft and improving my performance is the love and passion that I get up every morning thinking about. I want you to be entertained and I want you to know that I am doing it for my fans, but also for myself. I have been inspired by so many great artists and I hope to inspire others myself as well.
I hope you have enjoyed my rant about the behind the scenes work leading up to a performance. I would like to see as many people as possible on Sunday June 26th on the Plaza Stage (right at the
Grandstand entrance) at the San Diego Fair between 8pm and 10pm.
SEE YOU THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!