The Sober Musician
After almost 10 years of singing and dancing in different hotels, night-clubs and cafés, I have finally accepted the fact that I am not as valuable of a player as my brother and sister musicians that drink, smoke and party like rock-stars. Don’t misunderstand this to mean that I am not highly sought after and well-liked in the cover-band industry, it’s just a fact that I don’t have (and don’t see myself adopting) the skills necessary to keep up with the attractive qualities of the new and improved super-artist.
One of the most recent gigs I was booked for was a pretty sweet lounge gig that had a piano bar vibe. When it was a full house, we definitely turned up the music but more often than not, the clientele was older wealthy men smoking cigars and loungin’. My second night on the gig I was pulled aside by a young and pretty damn hot Italian who happened to be the bar manager. He was kind and easy on the eyes so some alone time with him wasn’t at all an issue for a single damsel like myself lol.
Anyway, he pulled out a chair for me and welcomed me on board rather stiffly.
He sat down and stared at me for a moment or two before he began to speak in a careful tone.
“So....... the last female singer we had here was able to get the customers to buy a lot of alcohol!
She finished a bottle of black label in a month!
Pretty impressive right?” He asked proudly.
“ Well, It sounds like you think it is”. I replied sarcastically.
He didn’t seem moved by my response so he continued in a direct and firm tone,
“It is impressive!
“But I overheard you mentioning to a customer that you don’t drink alcohol.
May I ask why you don’t drink?
Is it a religious thing?" He inquired.
Now I have to admit that this was a tough one for me because I really don’t think it’s anybody’s business why a person does or doesn’t do anything! Is it common for people to ask why someone brushes their teeth, or why someone wears shoes? Since when did drinking and smoking become so “normal” that if you don’t do it, it must be because of your religion?
All of these thoughts were running through my head all the while I kept a cool and calm disposition and confidently stated:
“It’s just...not healthy.”
He was stuck. He smiled in agreement but I could see in his eyes that he knew whatever he said next would determine and set the tone for our continued communications as long as I was on the gig.
He wanted to.
He was dying to.
He sat silently as did I, but the unspoken thoughts between the both of us was so clearly saying what every musician in the traveling cover band industry knows to be true:
TO BE VALUABLE, YOU ARE EXPECTED TO DO MORE THAN JUST PLAY MUSIC.
He wanted to get up but he made a little bit of small talk to ease the tension. I found myself doing what I absolutely dread doing, and that’s convincing people of how valuable I am in other ways.
Ughhhhh, how desperate is that!
But I was. I was desperate to give him a great impression of me and since he obviously didn’t think that my voice and performance was going to put asses in the seats, I allowed myself to temporarily feel less than. What kind of world do we live in now where you are looked at as less valuable because you choose to keep your body healthy and focus on the music first.
My mentor and boss George Elchakeih (owner of EL-LIVE productions) was the first person I called after this awkward conversation with the manager I would have to see for the next 3 months.
I was nervous and wanted to check in first before word got back to him that I wasn’t gonna pan out.
He isn’t the easiest person to get a hold of as he has over 20 bands and counting in the company and loads of musicians and their idiosyncrasies to deal with.
But, he responded to my text message that very day and completely nullified my borderline panic attack.
I explained myself and told him that a customer asked me if I wanted a drink and I said I would like a pineapple juice. The customer looked at me strangely and said, No, I mean alcohol, I want to buy you some alcohol. I declined and told the customer that I don’t drink alcohol. He wasn’t really trying to here that because I guess he didn’t want to be getting drunk alone, but after while he accepted my decline.
George simply replied:
Forget the alcohol. Socialize.
If you are socializing and making sure people are having a good time, they won’t even notice that you aren’t drinking.
It completely settled me down that I didn’t have to continue and try to defend my choice not to drink alcohol. He got it, but the truth is that there are other musicians out there that have the same experiences, and unfortunately do not have bosses or band-leaders that support their convictions.
A lot of musicians who have only mastered one skill are upgrading themselves to remain international gig worthy.
In this business the super artists that I talked about earlier should really be getting paid double for their skills. It’s like they do a musicians job and the job of the bar manager.
This is why they are so valuable.
They hit the stage, perform their hearts out and then spend the break time in between the sets talking/drinking/smoking and servicing the customers.
Now, you have some natural born socialites out there who have that kind of personality and love the spotlight and everything that comes with it. But then you have those artists who lose their balance and become addicted to the very things they used to be able to enjoy responsibly.
A lot of clients that book bands for their establishment are really looking for more than just musicians.
This is getting more and more common and people like myself who want to be able to focus on being known as a great musician and performing artist, can’t compete with the super artists that have the customer- service savvy and the talent to back it up. YIKES!
Being aware of the current skills required to do this job is absolutely vital.
If you aren’t able to give someone what they want but you want to stay relevant, you gotta make sure that you are damn good at your craft because there will always be people that appreciate “GOOD TALENT!