Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Eileen Ivers - WOW!!!!

We had two friends call us to say that we need to see this violinist, Eileen Ivers. She was playing at the Denver Irish festival in a local park. It 95 degrees out, so it took that second call to drag us out into the heat. The sun wasn't the only thing on fire, I believe I saw smoke coming from Eileen Ivers fiddle.

I was hooked from the first song to the end of the show. I was first caught by how effortlessly she played the violin. The second thing was her immediate energy and great smile. The third and most importantly was music. Even though we could have fried an egg on the sidewalk, the crowd was moving throughout the show and I never thought about giving up my front row seat to hide in the shade.

In thinking about her performance and music, I walked away with a few observations from the show:

- Even though we came to hear a fiddler, it was the whole package that made the show. The band, called the Immigrant Soul was stacked with talented musicians. The violin, while a lead instrument, was only a component of the whole package. I've often seen the reverse when a lead guitarist takes over the show and the rest of the band is window dressing. I watched the guitarist, Greg Anderson, for most of the show. If I had learned to play rhythm like him, I'd still be playing bluegrass music.

- The music was a marriage of different styles. While based in traditional Irish music, flavors of jazz, R+B, and African music were readily apparent. I even heard some acid rock sneaking its way in. She referred to this as "world music." The bottom-line was these different flavors made a gourmet meal that I savored.

- They mixed instrumentals with songs with lyrics. Their lead singer, Tommy McDonnell, had an interesting blend of Irish and R+B influences (I love this "world music"). To make things even better the audience was asked to join in on the choruses for a few songs.

- The whole show exuded energy. Eileen would bounce around the stage while playing amazing rifts. Irish step dancers came on to the stage. This energy spilled out into the audience and a group of kids moved up front to dance. I even remembered some of my old clogging steps.

At the end of the show they announced that they will be playing with the Denver symphony in February. I hope it's really cold so I can warm up by their music. I won't have to be called twice to see this show!!!!

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

What's missing with this songwriter?

We listened to a songwriter today who has the credentials, but for some reason we were unimpressed and the crowd didn't react. She has a great voice, great stage presence, and the music sounded good. So what was missing? Julie and I discussed this and came up with the following reasons (all small points but taken together...).

- The connection with the back-up band was missing. She was snapping her finger in time with a beat that we didn't feel. When I see someone visibly keeping time, I want to feel that time.
- All song introductions started with "this is a song I wrote." She was introduced as a songwriter, so why cover it again? After hearing it for the second and third time, it sounded self-serving.

- There seemed to be a mismatch between her presence, performance, and the songs. Between her credentials, dynamic stage personality, strong voice, and powerful delivery, our expectations were raised pretty high. Yet the songs she was singing weren't that dynamic. For example, poor contrast between the verses and chorus. Phrases had the same length and speed of delivery. With high expectations, we were expecting amazing songs.

She obviously was very talented, so I assume that we caught her on an off day. It could have been the new back-up band or just the mood of the room. However, to me this was a great example of things that I need to be aware.

It was also a reminder that I need to look at the expectations that I create in the audience. So far this has worked in my favor, they expect me to suck, so if I do halfway OK, I've exceeded their expectations.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nashville experiences

Two of our songwriting group recently returned from Nashville. A few of their comments that I noted were:

- It was a great learning experience.
- The main thing they accomplished was making contacts and learning about songwriting Nashville style.
- Songwriting is treated like any other business, songs need to be written to match the needs of the client. While everyone say that they want something different, if it does match the formula it needs to be really amazing to get listened to.
- Songs need to be much shorter, have a strong hook that's repeated, and follow a format like V C V C B C (with some flexibility).
- There are over 300 songs writing per week in Nashville, so it's as much who you know as what you know.
- Both had demos of their songs made in Nashville. It was really weird hearing our friends songs country-fied. If you're pitching in Nashville, your pitching country songs... Also, there's a big difference between demo shops, so do your homework.
- Co-writing is strongly encouraged and there is no shortage of people offering to do a cowrite on one of your existing songs. The trick is to get a co-write situation that works for you. (see my earlier postings on co-writing)

Listening to their comments, it sounds like something that I may want to do.

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