When I first started this blog as a diary of the gear I had purchased or evaluated in my endless search of “tone,” I have to admit that many of my purchases were made based upon their cool factor; as in how cool they sounded. As I was still new to tube amps, and electric guitars in general (having spent almost 35 years playing nothing but acoustic), I was like a kid in candy store, and as such, the decisions I made with respect to gear didn’t have the depth of thought applied to them that my later purchases have had.
Not to take away from the process. I’ve got some great gear as a result, but I also have lots of gear that’s just collecting dust because they just don’t fit my sound, or as in the case of my small collection of overdrives, there’s quite a bit of overlap in capabilities. For instance, I have three or four overdrives that are modeled after the venerable Tube Screamer. But it’s all good. I had to get all that out of my system. But now that I’ve refined the definition of my sound, I’m much more careful about the gear purchase decisions I make. Plus, I’m a lot more careful about the discretionary income I have as I share my passion for gear with my passion for fine wine.
But on top of that, the refinement of my sound has also compelled me towards authenticity in all aspects of my music; that is, being true to myself and what pleases me. I want the gear that I buy to allow me to authentically express myself and whatever musical message I may have, whether I’m playing my own music or covering someone else’s. My feeling is that I can’t be anyone else but me, so when I perform, I want to perform as me and not the personification of someone else.
Especially with doing covers – whether in my solo act or with my church band – I cover the music, not the artist. I arrange the tunes to fit my own interpretation of the music. It’s not about trying to be different just for difference’ sake, but to me, it’s more about ownership, and making a song my own. And from that perspective, I’m pretty careful about the songs I choose to cover. I have to feel as if I can own the songs and not just do them because they’re popular. If a song doesn’t really appeal to me, no matter how popular it may be, or even how well I might be able to perform it, I won’t do it because its lack of appeal to me won’t let me own it. Yeah, I suppose it would be a different story if I was in a show where I wouldn’t have a choice of singing a particular song. But since I do have the freedom, I can do the things I like to do.
Authenticity is important to me as an artist. It’s something I share with young people who sing with me. I tell them that it’s one thing to sing a song, but it’s an entirely different matter when you own a song. The difference in performance is like night and day. I give them an example of a friend of mine that I accompany at the restaurant I work at. She does this one Tuck and Patti song called, “You Take My Breath Away.” I personally don’t like her rendition of it, but our audience does, and the reason they do is that she owns that song hands down. So I appreciate what she’s does with it, even though I don’t happen to like her approach. After all, it’s about pleasing the audience, and she does that. Someone else who would just go through that song would simply pale in comparison.
None of this may make any sense, or you might think I’m completely off my rocker. But ask yourself if you’re being true to yourself with your performance. If you take a hard, honest look and see that you aren’t, you may surprise yourself by trying to be authentically you.