On Performing

Before I leave for my sister’s college graduation in about a week, I’m playing two live shows. Tonight, I want to write about the songs I’ll perform this week, what they mean to me, and the work it takes to perform them well.

The first performance is a songwriter’s showcase that I’m hosting at a local eatery. The second is a full-on “Siena” show, where I’ll play a set of original songs with my band. The band and I have one rehearsal together before the big show. Amazingly, one rehearsal is usually all we need to sound really confident. We’re all great players, and the songs are familiar. There’s me on piano and vocals, Jordan on bass, and Chris on drums. I write most of the songs, and there are a few we’ve written together.

I’m feeling a bit uneasy about the shows, since I was away for a month and wasn’t able to rehearse regularly with my band. The only reason I feel uneasy, though, is because I care so much. I want the shows to be top-notch.

I think I’ll actually change my language when I talk about them to be more positive. Stop using the words “uneasy” and “nervous.” So. I feel excited about the shows. I feel motivated by the shows. And I feel focused on the shows.

I need to do a lot of work to get my voice ready for the gymnastics I’ll pull in the live performances. I always go for difficult acrobatics when I’m playing live – when I get inspired I want to be able to just go for a run or a high belt and be able to not only pull it off, but bring out the emotional high in the music with finesse. I’m always stretching my limits. Often, I nail it. Especially when I’ve been practicing more regularly. Sometimes I don’t. I think I have a lot of potential as a vocalist and have just barely started to tap into it. It’ll take a lot more practice to be able to carry out the vocal visions I have in my head. The piano parts can always use work as well (improving my confidence with improv, getting my runs faster and cleaner) but it’s the voice I’m focusing on.

The Set List:

Breathe: this song is dear to my heart because it expresses longings. It is honest. It also looks to nature for inspiration, which is a common theme in my songs.

All of These Years: written for my sister, looking back through our childhood and being grateful for our connection. An offering to her letting her know I’m proud of her.

Human: it’s a song working through why I play music. The chorus goes:
we play to be connected
not for the empire
not for the racist shit we built

we play ’cause we are hurting
not for the glory
not for the fame or followers
we play ’cause we are human

Sea Painter: music from what I call my “middle phase.” Experimental, sonically-focused, strong images.

MeYouUs: song I wrote about my experience with PTSD, before I knew that it was PTSD>

Dragon: about an abusive relationship. Important to play because it shows the nuance and self-blame that comes along with abuse.

Carhartt: a fun teenage love song, about a guy who used to wear carhartts a lot.

More Than Us: a song about the squirrels that used to run around in our ceiling.

You Are The Best Thing, by Ray LaMontagne: Super soulful and delicious. Somebody once said that they like our version better than Ray’s.

You: an epic love song I wrote for Chris, when we were going through a really trying time in our relationship.

Overheard in a Cafeteria About a Father: an extremely poignant song. You’ll have to hear it to understand it. I’m recording it for the album I’ll release in 2022.

House in a Field: a dreamy tune. I recorded it for my debut album, then decided to completely revamp it. I changed the arrangement, produced it and recorded it with Chris in our house, and had it mixed and mastered by two of the best in the business. Then I made a dope music video for it.

California: a rare lighter song. One of my goals is to write more fun songs about being joyful, like this one!

He Loves Me, by Jill Scott: oh man. Jill Scott is such a powerful songwriter and poet. I just LOVE this song by her. It’s an honor to sing it, and the band and I have SO much fun jamming on it.

Meteor: this is the most-requested song at my shows, and has almost 600 views on YouTube, which I think is pretty awesome. I’m working on a music video for it right now (if you’ve been following my blog this month, this is the one that my grandma filmed).

Some songs I didn’t mention but we might play: Down, Winter Woods, Pretty, Lullaby for Corduroy (a lullaby we literally wrote for our cat), Holding Hands in Public, Havana by Camila Cabello, and Every Time I Hear That Song by Brandi Carlile. We only have 1.5 hours, so we definitely don’t have time for all of these. We can just gauge which ones we’re feeling in our rehearsal on Monday. It’s cool to have this many songs prepared, because we can just pick and choose which ones we want to perform at gigs. One of my goals though is to expand our set list in the coming months. Learn some new covers and add some new original songs. The only problem is I can’t record songs as fast as I write them. So right now I’m performing songs live that are mostly not recorded yet…. Oh well. All I have to do right now is focus on putting on a really good show. I can figure out the rest later.

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