Saturday, July 24, 2021

Open Mic Night: Learn Guitar In Front Of A Real Audience

Embarrassment.  We’ve all experienced it.  I’ve embarrassed myself in front of live audiences.  I’ve also witnessed others embarrassing themselves in front of live audiences, whether they knew it or not.  If you’ve been to a typical open microphone night, you know they can at times be cringeworthy.  People who arguably have no business being on a stage get up anyway and try to play cover songs after barely learning a few guitar chords.  In my case, it was the singing.  I’ve always known I’m not an awesome singer, but I’ve always done it anyway.

From a Tenacious D episode
From a Tenacious D episode

As a songwriter and recording artist, I’ve released some embarrassing recordings of embarrassing original songs.  Looking back on my catalog, there have always been one or two songs on each of my albums that I wish I’d left off.  I released them anyway for whatever reason I had at the time.  There are no artists who don’t have a few bad songs on their albums, and it’s well documented that even the greats have regrets.  Let’s just say I have quite a few that would not be worthy of consideration for a best-of album.

Here’s a quick list of a few cross-offs that in my own opinion don’t add much to my repertoire:

From the 2004 Moon Dreams album:

  • Better Days

From the 2006 Lakeside Landing album:

  • Against the Tide

From the 2008 Drive Time Companion album:

  • Cooley’s Rap
  • The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

From the 2010 Sense Of Belonging album:

  • Stay
  • Homesick

From the 2012 Cherchez La Femme album:

  • Forever In Shame
  • With All Of My Heart

From the 2014 Used To Be Good Looking album:

  • Goin’ Up To Leadville

From the 2016 Rest Assured album:

  • None

From the 2018 Missing The Boat album:

  • Got It Made
  • Sink Or Swim

From the 2020 Bluebird Days album:

  • None

When you wish you could take something back, there can be a lot of reasons:  out of tune, bad mix, too much of a novelty song, stereotyping, contrived rhyming, too-personal subject matter, too sappy, unclear meaning, too whimsical, contains altered state reference, too monotonous, contains mistakes, has sexual connotations, too hokey, contains swearing, etc.  When you wish you could edit something, there can be a lot of reasons too:  rearrange sections, revise lyrics, change key to suit vocal better, change chords, fix minor imperfections in the recordings, etc.

Sometimes in retrospect, you wish you would’ve weeded out certain songs and left them off the album and never released them just because there’s something about each of them that is annoying.  Somehow, your thinking at the time was that they were good enough based on the new song recordings you had available.  For certain songs, being excited about them while they’re new gets in the way of giving them time for later reflection that would reveal they were not as good as you once thought.

When you choose to put new music out into the world, it's a risky proposition because you open your vulnerability for public praise or criticism.  Who doesn’t look back on decisions with regret once in a while?  It happens to the best of us.  The important lesson is to practice patience, and give new creations time before re-evaluating their worthiness of inclusion in a new release.