Now YOU do that VOOdoo that YOU DO so well…

Why do you do what you do?

Simple enough question, right? But it’s not about what you do – it’s why you do it. The question also leaves out any conditioners – “at work,” “for fun,” “on vacation,” and so on. Just the question, without much context. And for many of us, “what you do” becomes a multiple choice thing. We do a lot of do as we do things, and so which do is the do that the question wants to know why you do?

Still with me? Good.

In all of my do-do (*snicker*), I’m going to focus in on playing live. That leaves a lot of unexplored do-do (*snort*), and perhaps it’s better that way. A life with unexplored do-do (*guffaw*) is a life that shows the truth of “ignorance is bliss.”

Anyway, enough of that do-do. (“alright, stop that.”)

Consider what it takes for a performer to go someplace and do their thing… For example, since I just happen to be at one of my favorite coffee houses as I write this, allow me to take a look at what it will take in a few days when I return here to play…

Load the van with various instruments, electronic doodads that need to live in the house, and bodies to head to the gig. Allow one hour for setup, plus travel time.

Arrive at the gig, unload the following:
PA System – 5 pieces, also a mic and stand
Wind controller rig – two pieces plus connections
Stands and tables – three or four pieces
Instruments – 12-15 whistles, perhaps a few recorders, possibly an ocarina and a melodica
Computer and connections
Promo material, CDs for sale

Now put everything in place, in an ever-changing performance configuration

Connect all the devices, including power, setup all the stands, get out all the instruments, boot up the laptop and load the tracks.

Sound check, warm up the instruments, double-check the set list, and work out any issues with the wind controller

Check the cable runs, and tape down any cords that might cause litigation.

Play for at least two hours, with a 5-10 minute break between sets (at the place I’ll play in a few days, I usually play for three hours, sometime without taking any breaks)

Take it all apart, disconnect everything, put away all the instruments, fold down the stands and tables, pack all the cords, disassemble the PA and put everything back in their cases / boxes / bags

Put everything back in the van. Allow at least 20 minutes to take down, although it takes more like 30-45 minutes.

Drive home, unload the stuff that lives in the house

Repeat. Every time you play. Ad infinitum.

Why do you do what you do?

Honestly? Because I need to. I want to. I find that those weeks where I don’t play somewhere, that something seems to be missing. When too much time goes by between gigs, I lose something – my edge, my groove, whatever you might call it. Things aren’t as smooth, the songs aren’t as tight, and it’s just not as good. When I’m playing regularly, it keeps getting easier and better.

And because Vicki likes to hear me play. That’s enough reason right there.

I think this compulsion is common in musicians. We spend so much time in our little rooms or studios, playing our songs to the air around us, developing ideas, practicing material, and polishing it as much as we can. But if it stops there, and the music is never heard, there is something missing. We remain incomplete. The music changes when it’s played live – the reaction of the audience enhances it, clarifies it, refines it. How the music is received determines if that song will ever be heard again. The reaction of those that hear it has an impact on how I feel about that song.

Did you have any idea that an audience has such power over a musician?

Anyone can sit around in their living room, crooning little tunes and playing for fun. But for a performer, that’s never enough. The music is never meant to just sit there – it wants to be heard. The musician wants it to be heard.

Why do you do what you do?

Because God made me this way. He put these gifts in me to reach out, not to draw in. And when I play, I reflect Him. When I’m using the gifts He has given, and when I am doing the things He created me to do, that’s when I shine the brightest. And that’s when I feel the most joy, the most peace, and the most connected to Him.

The music is meant to be heard. When it is heard, it reflects the One who gives it. I do what I do because He made me to. And that’s enough for me.

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