“I love Christmas! It’s my favorite time of the year.”
I was sitting in the audience watching my favorite music artist when he said this from stage. I’ve been a life-time fan of his music and I still AM! But a shadow cast itself over me in that moment. Disconnect.
I personally used to really struggle with Christmas. In fact, as a young woman, I used to dread it. If you’ve been reading my blog, you probably know that it took me years to figure out why.
I sat in my seat processing my reaction to his statement. I was sorry to not have grown up sharing this artist’s sentiment. It somehow detached me from him. Fortunately, before I let myself feel too sad and isolated, his next statement rescued me from my thoughts that were about to get overly analytical.
“But I know that not everyone feels that way.”
Whew….I was relieved.
“Perhaps you feel like you need a miracle tonight.” He touched the piano keys and started to sing—a beautiful song about miracles. It was just the song for the moment. I felt hope. I started to reconnect with him. He had won my heart.
He didn’t apologize for his love for Christmas, yet he took a moment to acknowledge that others might not share his view. He created a “moment” for me that I’ll never forget. And that’s the kind of moments that I love about concerts. That’s what makes a concert feel unique to me.
So when a fan of my own Christmas show asked, “How do you make the show personal? What is your thought process?” I had to first think about shows I’ve attended that have felt “personal” to me. What were the elements that made it feel that way?
After making some notes in my journal, I realized that the connecting elements always took me beyond the music. There was always a sense of getting to know the artist. I don’t want to just hear their music. I want my soul to connect with their soul.
I don’t know the “thought process” of other musicians and their shows, but here’s how I approach mine….
Since I personally create the Portraits of White show from a blank canvas every year, that in itself makes it a very personal show. Like building a house, I lay the foundation, choose the songs, the players, the moments and then I create lots of blueprints for how each piece of the show will look.
Once those plans are firmly in place, I can start practicing the show musically and creatively. I look for places to insert my own personality into the show, just like you’d choose your own paint colors and furniture for a house you designed.
Every great show includes moments that fit into various categories: intro, musical, fun, message, different, GREAT music, pin-drop, closing, etc….you get the idea. I try to make sure I’ve chosen music that prescribes moments just by the nature of the song itself. From there, I let creativity flow.
As I plan the show, I also allow for spontaneity—which means I take what happens in the moment and go with it. This started mainly because the strangest things would happen to me on stage and instead of getting uptight about it, I would just respond in a quirky kind of way. I found that people respond to my personality best when I am spontaneous.
Over the years, I’ve started looking for ways, even in conversation off the stage, to be fun and engaging. It’s good practice for when I’m on stage. I also love to find ways to interact with the other players on stage, bringing their personality into the show. This guarantees that even if you attended all of the shows in one weekend, you’d get a different experience every time!
My favorite concerts have been the ones where I felt like I got to know the artist—not just musically, but personally. I’ve been to shows where the music production was incredible, but I never got a glimpse into WHO the artist really is.
I want my show to be more of a unique experience so I choose music that moves me and then I make it my own and insert my own personality into it. I also look for places to make the stories and songs more personal and real to those who are listening. I want people to enjoy a professionally produced show yet feel as if they’ve had coffee with me in my living room.
As Tom Jackson says in his book, Live Music Method, “I [the audience] want to be led by someone who is confident, in control and is taking me somewhere interesting. I want them to have a charisma and a compelling attractiveness that inspires.”
I want to be that kind of performer.