A friend of mine who is also an artist is admirably meticulous about his preparation for all his shows and events. I observe, and I’m learning much from him. Like a little child I am! I admire his attention to detail, as I was never taught these skills when I was growing up. I was doing shows from ever since I was 13 years old, and I’m embarrassed to say it, but I winged it for the most part. Choreography was one thing. Whenever I had dancers, I knew that I needed to practice. I had learned that from having spent much of my youth in dance classes. But everything else: speaking to an audience, introducing the band, what I wore, any agenda I might have had, that was all up for grabs. Whatever came out of my mouth between songs at any given concert was mostly random. And I often found myself with my foot in my mouth at least one time during a show. Or otherwise I hardly gave anything of myself at all. I am a very different artist now.
Until I was in my mid-twenties I didn’t know that I was allowed to plan my banter. When someone finally suggested that I do that, my mind was blown. I thought that was cheating..! It is hard to even understand it now how clueless I was about so many important parts of my occupation. I didn’t even have a grasp of the basics! It is actually kind of funny if you think about it. For the longest time there was no rhyme or reason to my set-lists. None of it was ever particularly thought out, until I reached my late twenties. I was a dysfunctional artist, and I didn’t even know where to begin to bring some sense to what I was doing. This is because I wasn’t making any of the choices, and didn’t know how to take control. But truthfully I didn’t even know that things could be better. A common story that potentially applies to many things…
When I finally found my current label-family about four years ago — that’s when my real schooling began as an artist. A couple of years before I had started from scratch with everything (and I mean Everything!), so by then I had some experience of being on my own as an artist. From my label ECR Music Group I have learned how to be a bandleader, how to plan my show, how to make a set-list, how to choose my bandmates, how and where to rehearse, and that I need to choose my clothes well in advance of any concert so as to avoid a huge panic on the day of a show. To be honest, I’m still in the process of learning many of these things, but I’m making much progress.
It occurs to me that this is what they call artist development. It is nowhere close to the so-called artist development I received when I was signed to Sony 550 at 18 years old. Back then the powers that be were trying to teach me how to walk and sit “like a lady.” More like a drag queen is what I’d say..! I got inconsequential training for useless skills from emotionally abusive people. (I have many hilarious stories from my artist-training at Sony…) What I needed was nurturance and support and information, and great examples of how to become a fucking awesome artist. What I received was farcical exchanges, after which I was left even more confused. Only now have I received my artist development training. Better late than never. But man, this shit is important!
Yes, I admit to having some serious resentment of how I have been led astray by a number of idiots during my career. But it’s all part of my story and can’t be undone. Nor would I want it to be in the end. Those times are now potentially funny or tragic anecdotes, depending on how I spin them, and I can share them at shows or interviews. However fucked up it all was, it does make for some good entertainment.
“If we climb high enough, we will reach a height from which tragedy ceases to look tragic.”
― Irvin D. Yalom, When Nietzsche Wept