Victor Hugo, the famed 19th Century Poet and Author, is famously quoted as saying "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words". That is a bold claim for a man who effectively made a living out of using words. Then again, I cannot imagine that Victor Hugo would have had any sense as to how the world would change in the 150 years since his death.
Music is often described as a tapestry. Somewhere where emotions can derived in ways almost incomprehensible when we consider them. We all have songs in our lives that hold special meaning, whether it be at a time of great joy, great sorrow, great nostalgia, the right song played at the right time can move us immeasurably. But why?
Effectively it is the story to which we attach that song to. Think about it. The song that you played over and over again after a tough breakup will always fill you with the memories of that time in your life and that person. The song that played when your friend went face first into a lake on a summer BBQ will always bring you back to that day, and everything else that goes with that day. Ok, so that example was a little bit Dawson's Creek but you know what we mean.
But what about the local band, playing to a crowd of people who have never heard your music, who do not, YET, have a story to attach to your music? Certainly you can put on a great show and people will remember a great show, but what if there was a way for you to connect on a deeper level with your audience, and turn them into real fans? This is where the story is your greatest friend.
A story about the song you are singing, a tale of hilarity about the recording process, the funny things that happened in the rehearsal room, all of this is gold. You can be as forthcoming with the truth of the story as you want, you can exaggerate, you can talk in riddle before a great reveal, as long as it resonates with your audience. If you want possibly the best example of this, go onto youtube and search for the Matchbox 20 '3AM' piano version from their MTV storytellers session. Now, for those of you who do not know who or what a Matchbox 20 is (shame on you), and more particularly the single 3AM, which was a big, beefy, American, upbeat pop rock single a few moons ago, this version will blow you away. Sat behind a piano, Rob Thomas took a couple of minutes to explain the meaning behind the song, and there was not a noise in that room, and not a dry eye in the room after he performed the stripped back version. See? No spoilers either, the pay off is worth it though.
That was nearly 20 years ago. Now, in 2018, access is everything. Facebook, Twitter, websites, tumblr, Instagram, people no longer want to just see the face, they want to peer behind the curtain, to understand how the person and band ticks. So if you want to bring people into your shows on a deeper level, you have to use your story.
Story telling however, like singing or playing the guitar, is a skill, which takes practice. And your should think long and hard about what to say, how to say it, and when to say it in your shows. Tell your story, and people will make mental notes about the song, which they will maybe then go and buy, because they have connected with it in a meaningful way.
We will come back to another article in the future about tips and tricks on HOW to create your story on stage, how to perfect it's delivery and how to make yourself more comfortable with telling it, but for now, start thinking about your story, the funny bits of it, the sad bits, whatever the anecdote is and how you can tell it to a room of strangers to make them engage with your story, and then your music.
And for your homework, if you want while you wait for the next story telling instalment, go online and look at some of the great story tellers do their thing live. We hit on Matchbox 20, but have a look around Passenger, Dylan, Damien Rice, Springsteen, there are soo many. But this time, instead of focusing on the songs they play, listen to what they say BEFORE they even begin to play, and see how those, ever so carefully chosen words, sets up the emotion for the whole song.