Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"The Night Life..."

Today, I'm starting a new journey, which will give me something to write about it. Several weeks ago, during a set at Embassy Suites, (I'm no longer working there), I had a wisp of inspiration, which I followed all the next day. After a woman dropped her room key into my pocket, (you'll have to wait to hear the rest of the story) I thought that I needed to write a show about my lounge singing experiences. So, I quickly outlined the ideas that I had, and came up with a great structure. Ten songs and ten stories, neatly tucked into a lounge show act. I started researching the history of lounge singing, and soon I was writing one story after another, until I had fifteen pages of text. The lounge act has always had its romance, and its performers, even those who have parodied the act, such as Bill Murray and Andy Kaufman. From Billy Joel to Billie Holiday, the lounge act continues to sustain a mystery and an insight, especially by those that do it.

There are many nights when I would sit on the stool, oblivious to those who had just got off a plane and were taking in a quick drink before getting to six o'clock meeting in the morning. Business men and women, helicopter pilots (some of my best audience), lonely men and women, salesmen and women, lawyers, occasionally other musicians, drunks, lushes, employees after the shift, students and parents, wedding parties, family reunions, and a rash of other genres, all dropping in, usually looking for something that they will never find. My job was to always play into whatever it was they were looking for, and making Hotel California appear to be the place they were staying.

There was always the busboy named Steven, who watched for me to come in, quickly getting me a black coffee and a water with lemon the second I was ready to play. There were Chris and Carla, the bartender and server who would always instigated the clapping, sometimes against the tide of those who did not wish to clap. There were the managers and sub-managers, who had no clue as to what live music was actually contributing to their lounge, running by, sometimes seeming embarrassed by me sitting on the stool playing Waylon Jennings or Leonard Cohen. There was Gabriel, the Apache man who would get drunk and want to personally play Tom Petty, (I always let him do just two songs). Construction workers, when well into the night wanted to hear George Strait or Johnny Cash, a twenty dollar tip was usually well worth the thousandth rendition of Folsom Prison Blues. There was Josh Hagen, a drugstore salesman who said he was the brother-in-law of the man who started Curb Records, who wanted my demo and lyrics to walk in to the company. (I went into the studio to get him this and never heard from him again.)

There was William, the defense attorney who gave me a job on a murder trial as an analyst, (we lost the case, and haven't seen him since. His favorite song was Turn the Page by Bob Seager.)  There was Jim, the Apache helicopter salesman from Georgia who wanted to talk about his son, heading to college and the son, wanting to be a musician. When he was drunk, he loved the idea, when he was sober, he worried that he might end up like me, sitting in a lounge talking to him about music. There were the four women from Canada, who only wanted me to sing happy songs, as the alcohol clearly revealed the sad state of affairs for all of them in Canada. There was the young musician from Austin, who had just married his sweetheart, and wanted to hear every song I knew by Townes Van Zandt, an auspicious way to start a marriage.

There were a few outside shows in between the five nights a week job, but to sing lounge you have to be in the same spot, night after night to find the mystery in it. The energy has its highs and lows, and it is the audience that will usually dictate when the high or the low will come. This is what you have to be good at, knowing when to sing what/when, and how to sing it. If you are singing Amarillo By Morning, it's because you have spotted someone in the place that needs to be there the next day, even if it is their fantasy. If you sing three songs by Merle Haggard, it is because you've seen three middle aged men walk in with cowboy boots, and you wait until the third bourbon. If you venture into Bobbie McGee, you know there are two sisters sitting at the bar who remember the Monteray Folk Festival, and might have even been there.

It's artful, and its rich, but you also have to deal with your own demons, and the fact that the tips for that night may only buy your gas home, and you are well into the middle of your life, still an aspiring musician, and you are singing lounge. And, you may be playing with borrowed equipment, because you lost all yours in a fire while you were sleeping in a busted up trailer in a small town in Southern Utah. But, it gives you a handle on singing the blues, and you know the blues, which late into the night it's the only thing that you should be singing, and it somehow brings comfort, both to you and to those who are on their sixth scotch and will be hung over in the morning. The blues is always for the late crowd, and it always works.

When you sing Frank Sinatra's Summer Wind, or Blue Moon, you must make it your own, with only hints of Frank around the edges. When you sing Johnny Cash, you always sing it low, and you lift your guitar up to the side, as if you may break off your stool and stand on the bar. You never sing new Kris Kristofferson, you always sing the oldest Kristofferson you can remember, because The Silver Tongue Devil is one of the greatest tavern songs ever written, and if you are lucky, someone there will transform the lounge into a tavern, and Kristofferson's spirit will rise, even though he's the only one besides Willie Nelson from The Highwaymen who is still alive. Once the lounge has been transformed into a tavern, then you sing, The Night Life, by Willie, because it is the one song that all musicians from a by gone era know the truth of, and you sing it mournful,  heads will turn to hear it.

So, I wrote a proposal, for $6,000.00 at first, which climbed to eight when I started to itemize what it will cost me. I posted the proposal, which got just the response I was looking for, and between you and me, I am now on my way. I've sold sixty percent of the show, and am long past the idea of being embarrassed by raising money for a show. I've been here before, and I've always delivered, and this one I'll deliver something special. So, if you are one of the people who now own part of this show, or one who is thinking about it, I only have 20% left to sell, and I haven't really even tried. I always tell people, "What is more interesting? Buying some stock in General Electric or buying stock in a lounge show?" To me, it's a no-brainer, but people are hard set in their ways, but let's face it, buying stock these days is no more of gamble, and I have a better track record. I will also guarantee your original investment back, (I'll tell you how if you are interested) and for as long as I do the show, it will pay you a small but steady dividend. Does that sound more interesting than looking online for the stock market highs and lows? Each 10% is a thousand dollars, I have 20% left. Send me a message if you are interested. The above text is not from the show, but it could be, it could be…I have an audition later on this week for a new lounge, I will miss my old stool. 

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