as I crawled out from under the grand piano, banging my head in the process, I stood up and brushed years of floor fluff from myself… I was in a reflective mood.
It was Saturday night and I’d just finished setting up my gear before playing a gig in a local bar.
I love it! I’ve been doing this gigging thing for over 20 years now and haven’t yet worked out how to stop.
Is it lucrative? No, not really.
Does it further a career in music? Nope, but if you’re good hopefully they’ll call you more than you call them.
Does it make me feel good? Yes, yes it does and that’s what I wanted to write about here.
Let’s deal with some of the facts. I’m totally blind and gig regularly in any venue that books me really. I get from A to B thanks to a few loyal taxi drivers who know me well and know the craic. I set up my own equipment and when I say “no, I don’t need a hand, I’m fine” I mean this in the nicest possible way. I’ve my own ways of doing things and usually helpful people helping doesn’t help.
I’ve just realised I haven’t said what I actually do. I sing songs and play guitar. acoustic covers of chart stuff usually with a good proportion of my set being Irish Folk songs or songs that aren’t Irish or folk, that sound a bit Irish and Folkky. More recently I’ve started to write my own material and am finding this very satisfying but I don’t give enough time to it and this does trouble me. There’s just not enough hours to go around.
You can take a listen to some stuff I’ve recorded over on Sound Cloud if you like.
I’m under no illusion, playing endless gigs in local bars doesn’t lead to bags of cash or a glamorous celebrity life style but I think I’m addicted to the buzz, the endless problem solving and meeting every kind of people. People are great! You do meet the odd ejit who is determined to tell me three more things, two more times, before Dropping One more Guinness fart but, by a long way, people are cool and simply appreciate live music and that I seem to be sweating more than they are right now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a glass at least half full kind of guy but I remember when the realisation hit me that no matter how many gigs you do in a year, you’ll be no further on than when you started really. Yes, you’ll have hopefully learnt more about yourself as a singer or musician but to the audience, it’s always the first time they’ve heard you and even though you might have played there 37 times before, nobody really remembers and always forget in the morning.
To me, playing music has always felt like mine. It’s something I started to do in my teenage years, realised I wasn’t bad at it and kept on exploring in my own way.
Somehow, even though I can’t see a thing, getting out in front of people, some absolutely bananas drunk, has never daunted me and something I’ve come to measure myself by. The day I feel I can’t do this, feels like a bad day. Maybe that’s it, now I’ve created this persona and if I let it go, it’ll mean the end of something.
I’ve made amazing friends and connections through music. I’ve had some fantastic experiences too, the best of which I probably couldn’t write here for fear of legal proceedings but on a serious note though, I think it’s the fact that I was in control of it that makes it such a rewarding way to earn a few quid. Before I started my current day job, I suppose gigging was my main source of income for a while. And it worked. If you put the time in, then you get the money out but it’s a hard way of life especially if you’re balancing family life or a relationship with a better half. Plus, watch the drinking, as I don’t drive, obviously, I’m free to drink as much as I want. I try and stick to the three pint rule though, it’s ok to have just three pints, that doesn’t affect my singing or playing and I should be ok for the toilet breaks.
Speaking of toilets, not being able to see and having to find my own way to the gentlemen’s facilities in a new venue is a bit of a pain in the arse. When a venue has booked you to play a gig, it seems somehow wrong to then have to ask the bar staff for assistance to go for a wee or Is that just me?
Singing and playing guitar for me, is cathartic. That’s really the only reason I do it. Believe it or not, there is a zone and when you’re in it; it’s the best feeling in the world. You know when life serves you up the sort of week that leaves you wondering why stuff isn’t simpler, the only thing I know sorts it all out is a good sing. The louder the better and just give them one more tune.
Maybe a part of me gets a kick out of the fact that, within the circus of taking bookings for gigs, travelling to gigs, setting up equipment and finally performing, I feel as an equal to any other working musician. There’s no special allowances offered or accepted, my customers just want a musician and they aren’t going to be able to offer special assistance, extra time or let me off when something isn’t right. I’ve never felt discriminated against because of my sight, I’ve never felt excluded or hard done by or lesser than and that’s quite something in today’s society. I feel more equal gigging than I do in my seemingly safe and tidy office job and I don’t admit that lightly.
I still count myself lucky that I get to provide a sound track to someone’s night out or share something of that amazing buzz he or she appears to be having. Music is a powerful thing. It does stir up emotions, alters moods and helps people get what’s inside, outside. It’s probably over indulgent of me to say but I think modes of expression like music is the closest thing to magic in this world.
Did I find what I was looking for under that piano? No, I didn’t but then you seldom do.
The plug socket I was searching for was Right beside me the whole time. Music is a filthy business.
Thanks for reading and remember, don’t trust it!