Somewhere toward the end of this tour, a newspaper wrote that I was “like Leonard Cohen with vocal chops.” A nice quote, yes, but also something to think about as I went into the last two shows, and thought back about the tour as a whole.
Friday, I rolled into Poughkeepsie and finally met my booking agent Markus Payne, who made it all possible. Nice to finally put a face to that phone voice and email address. He’d scored a gig for me at an afternoon Pride Preview Party/Picnic for the Hudson Valley at some historic estate. Beautiful grounds, like something out of an Edith Warton novel. I was immediately met with a hearty handshake and a can of bug repellent: easy to forget in Los Angeles that you don’t come by all this deciduous beauty without suffering. The Hudson Valley is quasi-rural and most of the attendees, I gathered, don’t see each other that regularly so it had the feel of a reunion, with a lot of catching-up conversations and a whole lot more liquor. Lots of tiny tiny dogs ran rampant around their feet, and before the stage.
Into this, stepped Leonard Cohen-with-a-voice. Which means, essentially, I was a poetic, emotive human jukebox (thank you, Leslie, for that phrase). For most of them, I could have been singing the phone book. Fortunately, human jukeboxes still have listeners and I ended up selling a few CDs and meeting a few admirers. And the human jukebox got paid. But, man, I had to push.
But the situation flipped the next, final night of the tour. Café Bocca is tiny, which fit the crowd, and I realized that many of them were really there just for dinner. The light was going down over the Hudson River, a nice sunny amber, and I thought, I want these people to digest. So I decided to see how gently I could perform my twisted little songs. I went from human jukebox to poetic dinner muzak.
And the weird thing is, all the diners began to pay attention to me. The less attention I demanded, the more I got.
This would not have worked at the picnic, so this was not a simple lesson. There are no simple lessons here. Except for the fact that maybe I should not be fooled by my ability to “pull it off” musically in difficult circumstances. If you step back a little, really, if I am consistently having to “pull it off”, maybe I’m in the wrong places. I know I don’t go see my favorite artists to see them battle heroically against the odds. I want to see them comfortable, with great sound, in a welcoming setting.
Sure, I take a little stupid pride in not being a hothouse flower, but the fact that I can put on a good show does not mean I’m a real showman. They’re a different breed. Me, I’m “Leonard Cohen with vocal chops”. Where would you want to go hear HIM play?
I’m writing this in the Phoenix airport, waiting for my connection back to Los Angeles, my guitars at my feet. I’m coming home playing better. I’m coming home with a problematic new song finally all worked out. And I’m coming home with two show booked for June.