Acousticiiiiiize the Demons
You know that moment at a great rock concert when you just don't think that it could get any better? Then out walks the lead singer, sans band, who sits down on a stool, guitar slung around his/her back and says "Hey, everybody. I'm going to take things down a notch or two." From that point on you are transported from a 15,000-full arena to an intimate moment between only you and your favorite storyteller, completely mesmerized as you sink into the most breath-takingly sweet, stripped-down version of your favorite song. Whether it be that artist's song or a cover, its one of the coolest musical experiences, like, ever. Remember when D.H.T. released that piano-only version of Roxette's power ballad "Listen to your Heart?" How about the Sundays haunting guitar rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses?" I was blown away when 90's rock band Matchbox Twenty released their live acoustic version of "Push" - a hard-core, controversial alt/rock song when it was released as their first hit single; a sad, borderline-depressing ballad as the acoustic version helped you finally understand. It wasn't some abusive man pissed at his girlfriend; quite the opposite, in fact. The acousticity made you wonder how you could have missed that this was a sad boy being taken advantage of by someone he loved most, leaving him feeling worthless. Yes, the "singer" was leather-clad, eyes and fingernails coated in black makeup, his smoker-gravelly voice practically spitting at you when he sang "I wanna push you around, I wanna drag you down." However, the real story came from the songwriter underneath all that leather. This example is to point out how an acoustic set can take the audience on an entirely new journey. By peeling back each layer of a song right down to its core it becomes raw, allowing the audience to experience the singer's emotions in their purest sense. It's almost indescribable, but I'm doing my best! Anyway, I decided to take a little "acoustic journey" of my own; this time, I was the one doing the acousticizing, all with the help of one very talented, very kind and very talented (oh - did I already say talented?) guitarist and friend of mine, BJ Knights.
BJ and I were introduced at Mockingbird Recording Studio years ago. He recorded guitar on a few of my songs so he was already very familiar with my music when I proposed an open mic idea to him. Open mics are the best (and pretty much one of the only) avenues for unknown songwriters like myself to get their songs heard. I'd already done the gig where I sang to my own backing track (and we all know how that went down), but I felt that a one-on-one acoustic experience might really allow me to get creative with my songs. This time I hoped that the crowd would understand the lyrics as they were meant, using a more vulnerable, softer side of my voice to convey my stories better. It's always cool to slip in a cover song for the crowd's pleasure of singing along - and even cooler when that cover can mash into one of your own. After hearing an amazing acoustic version of one of my all-time favorite songs "Bittersweet Symphony" (The Verve) and realizing how similar the theme was to my own song "100," I thought - this is perfect.
I did some research on open mic nites and threw some places out to BJ. He suggested that we do a more laid-back open mic at Irish bar Mr. Dooley's in Wrentham, MA first and then take it to the bigger city crowd at Boston's King's Bowling Alley and Lounge. BJ can play anything - if he doesn't know it yet, he makes it happen, no questions asked. With a guitarist like this, you quickly learn that you can play off of each other without planning too far ahead or even rehearsing more than once. BJ's super comfortable, laid-back attitude on stage made me feel instantly at ease. Stage fright and I officially said our last goodbye. I had a blast! Not only did things go smoothly, but I had FUN, and that's the best part of performing. We got some great feedback and encouragement to do more and that is exactly what we're going to do.
So stay tuned and keep a lookout for some upcoming shows. You can go to a rock concert with thousands of other fans any time - for now, let this just be you, me and the music. ;)