Sunday, June 22, 2008

Chatting up

Most of what we play is atmosphere gigs. That is, we set up someplace where music isn't the reason people come (most often a coffeehouse), and we play while they hang out, talk to each other, do homework, whatever. We're there in the background to make the experience seem a little cooler.

When we're doing atmosphere, we don't interact much with the audience beyond saying who we are and occasionally announcing a song name. The people sipping coffee and talking to each other aren't there for us; it seems rude to interrupt their conversation.

All well and good. But when we finally find ourselves playing in front of people who are -- gasp -- actually listening, as in Friday's gig, it occurs to me that I need more practice chatting them up. Even if I'm a lot more comfortable with this than when Cinder Bridge first got started, I'm kind of introverted, and I have a tendency to trip over my words.

My first vocal coach told me that I should rehearse not only what I'm going to sing for a given set, but also whatever I want to say. I've never taken her advice. It's one thing to practice vocal technique, make sure I've got the lyrics down, work on challenging keyboard passages, etc. It's another thing to banter with a pretend audience and not feel absolutely ridiculous.

So, what's a nerdy singer/songwriter to do for chatting-up experience?

Dunno. Maybe I should try a little harder to connect with those coffeehouse patrons.


David Powell said...

Just think of it as acting. You're playing the part of an entertainer, and (like countless actors over the years) you need to practice your lines in front of a mirror. :)

Unknown said...

Or you could hire ME as a third member. Can't play or sing but I'm ALL OVER chatting duties. :)

Jannie Funster said...

Yes, I think you almost have to rehearse, yes, even in front of the mirror, as David Powell suggests. Maybe even write a little script, i.e lines, as in a play.

I often hear artists play 3 songs off the bat before they even utter a word.

Maybe tell a little about how the song got born, as an intro. Or once in a while just say "I'm going to let this next song speak for itself."


cinderkeys said...

*hangs head*

I'm one of those performers who lets two or three songs go by before I introduce us.

Maybe I should try to get over feeling ridiculous about rehearsing chatter. The difficulty is coming up with lines to rehearse. I tend to time my talking with when I sense people are actually listening, which varies from gig to gig.

Unknown said...

I think you can still do that; even that it's critical to do that. (And by "that" I mean gauge and time your comments by when the audience is listening.)I have always hated when an artist's banter sounded like it was being delivered from a generic script with the only variants being "Thank you, [insert venue name here]!"

But maybe you could just have stored in your head a couple of rehearsed lines in mind for each song - stories, inspirations, news (this song will be featured on an upcoming CD to benefit people with CFIDS, etc.) and break them out when you feel like it would be well received?

And I would think you should always introduce yourselves, either right up front or after the first song. Get that name recognition stamp branded early and often.

Cinder Bridge...Cinder Bridge...Cinder Bridge!

You know, that actually lends itself rather well to a "we want an encore" chant. :)

DeppityBob said...

I'm thinking non-sequiturs near the point of randomness. "Let the free drop boys fall, meshuganah! Our best fried coyote droppings have no Jenga sweetness. Be our total spandex lust boogers!" If anyone asks, you can slap them and tell them it's Dada and insult them for not recognizing it. There you go: arrogant, intellectual, and powerful. AND your audience will be waiting to see if you're going to have a nervous breakdown or introduce Charles Bukowski.

cinderkeys said...

Leigh & Jannie: If I say something before playing a song, it's most often to tell something about the song. I'm just never sure if I've made the story interesting.

DeppityBob: That would be awesome. Of course, we'd also have to write dada lyrics to make the schtick believable. Which could also solve my wanting-to-write-lyrics-faster dilemma.

Shoot, I was going to link to Mad Libs-style lyrics written by Jannie Sue Funster and now I can't find them. JSF: feel free to post them here. :)