Whether performing live to an audience, recording in the studio, or just playing for fun, I was always taught that you put 150% of you blood, guts and soul into every note, every time.
I remember I was around 19 years old, playing with Sparky Hussle at Apple Annie’s in Wilmington, CA. I was jumping around being ‘showy’…and focusing on the performance rather than the accuracy and soul of the music.
My then drummer (now deceased, R.I.P.) Larry Dent motioned me over to the drumset and said; “Elowe, if you’re not going to put every ounce of your blood and guts into every note you play, put your guitar down and get the fuck off the stage! There are 100 guys wishing they were standing where you’re standing! Get it together or don’t be on this stage.”
I’ve never forgotten that little talk, and took it very much to heart. That said, doing that requires intense concentration, from the second the song starts until the very end…not letting up on the concentration for even a nano second. It’s what they call “being in the now”. That’s great advice for your whole life really, but here, we’ll just stick to music. Creating an authentic ‘in-the-now’ moment for the audience is the best and purest way to keep them engaged.
Recently, while trying to practice staying focused in the now (and it DOES take practice-or serious mind altering substances–in my old age, I prefer the former), I noticed that being in the Now requires focus on the nano-second just ‘before’ now. That sounds like a very weird concept…but hear me out. Try to do it yourself. Slow your breathing, and focus on the air passing in and out of your lungs. Picture the oxygen flowing through your body with every breath. Focus on only sounds, smells, sites (if eyes are open) that are happening right this very second. Don’t linger on the thought, as now it’s already in the past… but only focus on the things happening at this very second. Do you notice that there is actually a nano second before what you perceive as ‘NOW’ that is kind of anticipatory or expectant? I did…and it made me realize that if I try and focus on that idea/feeling/nano-second-of-a-thought, it makes ‘staying’ in the NOW a little more consistent.
Well, as I’m not so sure I explained that very well, I’ll leave it there for now.