I’m trying to remember exactly when it was. My unreliable memory tells me it was 1972, and since none of you will know or care enough to catch me out on this, I’ll stick to that. This was the year I took my first shaky steps out into the public arena with a Yahama guitar and an exercise book full of self-penned songs. The venue was a small coffee lounge down near the corner of Victoria and Queen Streets in Auckland. My gig began at 10pm in a small room out back and my audience was usually a mixture of drunk and curious people who’d wandered in by chance to find some strange, curly haired dude warbling away at them with unfamiliar tunes and words. I only played about 5-6 nights before calling it a day. Had fate not intervened shortly thereafter with a series of events that led to my getting a recording contract, those coffee house appearances may well have been the start and finish of my musical adventure. As it was, I didn’t perform in public again until after I’d made records and received enough airplay to ensure my audiences were a far bigger and a great deal more enthusiastic than those coffee lounge patrons had been.
Then, as most of you know, four years and a great many live performances later, I walked away from it all.
That was then this is now. Now I’m about to try some live performances again. Not as part of a ‘Remember When I was Somebody’ concert tour with a bunch of other Golden Oldies, (as many have suggested I do over the years), but as a songwriter who is pretty much an unknown in this day and age. Having walked away from the spotlight and let my reputation fade, I’m now more or less starting all over again. And like anyone who is starting out, my first steps will be exploratory and somewhat tentative.
The concerts will be small and acoustic. No band, just me and my guitar. While I’ll sing some of the old songs for the few old and hardy fans who venture out on the cold June evenings, most of what I’ll do will be newer stuff. Songs I’ve recently recorded and some I’m writing now. For better or worse my audiences will hear my songs in the raw, unadorned form they’re in before I move into the recording studio and involve proper musicians, arrangers and technical gizmos. And, in many senses, the performances will have more to do with what I did in that long forgotten coffee lounge than anything I did later in my career. This prospect both excites and scares me. How people will react to this no frills approach only time will tell. But, to be honest, the economics of the exercise preclude anything more ambitious.
On this short tour I’ll be joined by another Kiwi singer-songwriter, Cherry Gemstone, and variety of young singer-songwriters who have battled for the dubious honour of opening the show for me by winning local talent contests. So the concerts will be like watching songwriters at work practicing their craft. Certainly that’s how I hope to make my set: Simple, intimate, relaxed (after the nerves settle) and fun.
Whether such humble beginnings lead to anything bigger in the future remains to be seen. I don’t know how it will end. I only know this is how it starts.
I’ll post dates and venues of the tour as soon as they are set in stone. Perhaps I’ll see you at one of them.