Expert Advice

Expert Advice: Time to Refresh Your Act...?

Re-inventing one’s self from time to time can be refreshing and exciting, not only for you as an artist, but for your audience as well. It’ll keep you relevant and interesting while moving forward and evolving as a musician. There are some fans that want their heroes to stay put style-wise and don’t want them to change, but for me that seems very boring. I have the highest respect for any band that finds its sound and image and sticks with it (AC/DC comes to mind). As long as it’s working why fix it, right? But if you’re bored and looking for a change, then by all means work up some new material and overhaul the stage image a little.

Introducing new material from time to time will keep your fans interested. You don’t have to write a new song for every gig, but maybe you can try a fresh arrangement on an old song now and then or work up a cool cover tune to surprise your audience at the next show. Keep your fans guessing and they’ll come back again and again to see what your band will do next.

Tighten up arrangements of your old songs too. Many times a band will get into habits. It’s okay to be well rehearsed, tight and consistent, but boring?... No! So let’s put a little spice into that old recipe. Hold rehearsals that are intended to raise the dead! Listen for those little trouble spots and address them. Practice that tricky turnaround that seems to stump the band every now and then. Tighten up those little riffs that sometimes squeak by and sometimes not. Maybe a new rhythm or a new beat will do the trick. Get everyone on the same page so that when you’re playing at your next gig you won’t sound just like you did the last time. Give your fans a bonus for coming to all the shows.

Sometimes just wearing something new or creating some stage effect or lighting can liven up a tired show. Just a slight change in appearance can excite your fans and keep them coming back. Remember, you’re an entertainer and your image should reflect your style. It may not be something you can spend a lot of money on right now, but if you use your imagination you just might find a whole new image waiting for you at the local thrift store.

A new instrument, amp or effect can awaken the creative spirit as well. Just by changing things up a little, you open up the possibilities of entering into musical territories never explored by you before. When you’re having fun and staying engaged and in the moment, that’s where the magic is! There have been times when I’ve had a whole new world open up to me just by using a new effect, gadget or by playing a different guitar or trying a new tuning. Find ways to liven up the show and give yourself permission to play like a little kid. When you excite the artist within, you become more exciting to your audience.

Create interesting turn-a-rounds that will surprise your loyal fans. Twist songs into one another and create medleys that keep the energy flowing. Transitioning or running songs into each other can be a powerful effect. San Diego, CA roots-rockers, the Paladins sometimes play an entire set without a break between songs, keeping the dance floor full. Their shows have momentum like a steamroller and they power through their sets with relentless energy that’s infectious and draws large crowds to their shows.

Do something unexpected and exciting. If you’re bored with your personal performance, then maybe you should take a lesson from someone or buy a new instructional video to get you thinking again. Step out and cause an earthquake at the next rehearsal or gig. Do something to take your performance to another level and have fun.

Don’t be surprised if you turn off a fan or two along the way as you try a new look or musical style. Fans can be very finicky and possessive and hate change. However, if you can see that a new look or sound is working for you, you can decide if it’s worth staying faithful to a core audience or if it would be a better career move to go with a fresh new approach. Just remember that you have full control of your musical direction and the way you present it. Go with what feels right to you and have fun. I guarantee that you will have more fun than the band that floats along not paying attention to the details.

Bottom line is the “Fun Factor.” If you aren’t having fun then your audience is probably not having much fun either. By doing new and exciting things within your performance, you create a magical moment for all. If you are in the moment and the band is having a blast, then it will flow out into the audience as well. People don’t normally go to shows to be bored, they want to have a fun experience that takes them out of their daily lives for a while.

I guess what I’m getting at here is––if you’re bored then chances are everybody else is too. Re-invention can be the answer for anyone who has lost some passion for his or her own performance. Experimentation is the spice of life. Now get out there and shake em’ up!

DALE PETERSON is author of the new book, Why in the World Would You Want to Start a Band?, published by Elad Press. As a guitarist, singer and songwriter, he has recorded nine releases with bands, Rhythm Lords and Trouble No More, as well as several solo projects with songs placed in major motion pictures and television programs. He has over 45 years of recording and touring experience. Contact him at dale@root66recordingco.com.