Welcome! I've wanted to have a space like this for a while; writing comes fairly naturally to me, and I feel — hope — this will be somewhere I can share thoughts with you that social media captions can't quite sum up. So let's catch up . . .
It's been a little over six months since I released The Shoebox EP. In those six months, I've written and scrapped a dozen new songs. I've headlined two live shows. I've felt restless, unsatisfied, hesitant. This summer, circumstances have aligned so that I have some downtime — a chance at respite, at recentering. So I set myself a challenge this past week:
Play one open mic every day.
I've always said that performing for an audience isn’t my forte; just doesn’t come naturally to me. I also tend to make music in a bubble much of the time, forgetting there are other, unique, talented musicians just outside the door. This challenge was twofold: An inner goal of strengthening my performances, and an outer one of starting to form a musical community for myself.
Unsurprisingly, this week has gone by at warp speed. Some places were packed, others sparse; some whooped and hollered, others clapped politely. Some nights I played almost first, some in the middle, and once I stayed four hours to be able to play one song. I also set myself the additional challenge of playing different sets of songs every night.
I didn't think one mic a day would be too daunting, but it turns out, it's not just going to the mic. It's building time for practicing my own music back into my day (I hadn't for months). It's preparing more songs than I need, so that I can play a set that fits the feel of the venue. It's getting to the mic (sometimes an hour away) good and early to get a slot — or sometimes getting there, and having to turn around because the lineup is full. In the case of this particular week, it's getting someone to film my set to keep myself accountable — sometimes, complete strangers. Turns out, a mic a day takes all day, not just those couple hours at the bar.
There have been some rude awakenings: Because I was writing and practicing during the day, then traveling, then performing at night (sometimes well into the small hours), I've become weirdly nocturnal. Most mics also have a cover or bar item minimum, or both — and while I do see these mics as an investment in my community and musical future, they are a financial commitment. I've (re)learnt many lessons: to show up on time (or else risk not getting a slot, which happened Sunday); to practice my material offstage, and regularly; to stick it out and pay my dues as a musician (yes, even by staying four hours). Most of all, to follow through, even if — actually, especially if — I don't "feel like it." (Bonus: Friday night open mics seem to be mythical creatures, not unlike unicorns.)
But here's the thing. I do feel more comfortable now getting up onstage, playing trickier songs, even bantering a little with the crowd. It's not a transformation; I still fumble with fingerings, and my heart still races before my name is called. But by making performing just a part of my day (night?), it feels like I've taken some of the fear out of it.
There's an even bigger thing to take away from this week: I got to hear and see delightful, heart-wrenching, sometimes downright weird art every night. I met some thoughtful, talented people, and could hear reactions to my art in real time. I am so lucky to have a supportive audience online, no question: This week in particular, though, was about bringing faces to my music — getting real people in a room in this city to hear what I’m doing.
It made it feel real.
So here's what I'm not going to do: go to an open mic every day. (Sorry. I need to protect my sleep and my bank account.) What I am going to do is carve out time going forward for the things that I have enjoyed from this week: performance, practice, and people.
And on that note, I hope to see you, real people in a room somewhere in this city, very soon. xx P