They Hear What You Say Before They Hear What You Play

Last week I talked about Nashville being a small town and the importance of always doing your best to leave a good impression - specifically not giving up mid-song and and walking off the stage at an open mic because the EQ in your monitor isn't what you want it to be. If you ask me, that's pretty solid advice, and I think there are a lot of other people who would back me up on it. But making a good impression is more than just playing your song through to the end - it's also about presenting your song in a favorable way. Let me esplain. No, there is too much; let me sum up.

The other week on a very rainy night I took my first trip to Belcourt Taps in Hillsboro Village to see a songwriter I'm acquainted with perform in a round. It turned out that she wasn't actually playing, but I chose to stick around anyway, enjoy my first Sam Adams Winter Lager of the season, and listen to the writers who were. There were three of them, but one in particular that I want to talk about.

Prior to his last song, this writer gave an introduction where he talked about how it had been his first cut - a track on the second album of the band Train a band that you most definitely know. The album was the band's first smash success, went something like triple platinum, and included a #1 song that to this day I really dislike. So how did he get a cut on this album and reap the mechanical royalty benefits? Well, it turns out that at the time he was living on the couch of the band's drummer. That's a great story! And then right before he played the song he said that it had been a bit of a "filler song" on the album.

Wait.

Stop.

See the problem? Why would you ever describe a song you're about to play in a round as "filler"? Why would you ever play a song in a round that you might think of as "filler"? Why do I want to hear a song performed in a round that the songwriter believes is "filler"? I understand what he was saying, but that's not how he should've said it. That word makes me think, Oh, OK, this isn't something I need to listen to, and that's not the vibe you want to be sending to your audience. There was no further intro needed, but if he had to he should've said something like, "Unfortunately, it was never released as a single, but it's a great song and I'm still proud of it."

Remember: they hear what you say before they hear what you play. The listener's opinion of your song will always be influenced by your opinion of your song, even if you don't realize it. So make it a good one.

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    © STEVE SCHULTZ