Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Show 444 - John Platania
Sometimes, WoodSongs is fun.
Don't get me wrong, it's always a great time. But after 444 shows, the routine becomes evident and you sort of go into "auto-pilot." Which of course, is the life of an artist. Musicians and songwriters must cultivate a very high tolerance for repetition in order to survive.
Think about it: they write a song. Practice the song. Rehearse the song. Record the song. Make a music video of the song. Release the song. Radio plays the song. They perform the song. It becomes a hit and they play the darn thing every night for the rest of their career.
Now, I've never had a hit song ... granted. But I have performed over 2,500 Earth Concerts in less than four years which meant that I was playing the same song-set two, sometimes three times a day for up to six days a week ... for four years. It may not have been a hit record, but it sure felt like one.
I had a conversation a few years ago with a great songwriter who has had several global hit records. He described that, as much as he loves his songs and all they give him, it can be a bit of a struggle at times to stay interested in the moment of performance. Then he said something that really stuck with me:
"It must be horrible being Chuck Berry."
Please remember that we were speaking in the context of repetition. He wasn't implying anything about Chuck Berry personally, just the situation Chuck was in. You see, Chuck has a whole concert set of 2 1/2 minute hits, written in the same key of E with the same chord structure, and his audience and the promoters expect to hear every last one of those hits on stage that night. If he ever left out Johnny Be Good he would be booed off the stage.
"Massive hits" are awe inspiring events ... yet can feel like a bruise to your brain and vocal chords. It must be exciting at first, but after a decade or two and five thousand performances later it can't be all that interesting anymore. I guess that's why Arlo Guthrie stopped playing Alice's Restaurant for over a decade. He had to rest from it and he said so publicly. It didn't mean he didn't like the song or that he didn't appreciate how much the audience wanted to hear it. He simply needed a break. Obviously, he respects the song because he's playing it in concert again.
John Platania (pictured here) was on the show this past Monday. He is a brilliant and in-demand musician who toured with everyone from Van Morrison to Bonnie Raitt ... he toured with Don McLean for almost 15 years ... he made a living backing up these great songwriters with the huge hits that made those careers possible.
John has his own solo CD out. It really shows off his guitar style and voice and it becomes obvious why so many want to work with him. And he's a great guy. He's gone from side-man to front-man. And the sense of the repetition is different. It is no longer someone else's song. Now, he is singing his own songs. Every night. Every concert. Every performance. He was on the show with Chip Taylor, a wonderful songwriter and true gentleman who has seen several of his songs travel the years and go around the world. Chip plays Wild Thing and Angel Of The Morning every night. Every ... single ... night.
But here they are, traveling on and introducing their music to new audiences. Because at the very heart of them they are both artists, they both appreciate the audience, they both love what they are doing. And whether the next song becomes a hit or not, they choose to let the music live and breathe in the voices of the audiences they sing to.
And that is fun.