Over my career as a bassist and singer, I’ve been forced to realize one inevitable fact about performing as a musician: my primary role is to serve the song, my secondary role is to entertain my audience.
In other words, for the bulk of my career, it isn’t all about me.
As much as I’d like to serve my ego and focus on showing off all my mad chops and abilities on the bass guitar and highlight my vocal prowess, first and foremost I am a servant to the song and the audience’s desires.
Which means as a freelance musician, I am asked to play songs I normally wouldn’t listen to recreationally, I am asked to sing and emote lyrics that make me uncomfortable. However as a working musician, I am willing to bend to a certain extent. There are some things I won’t do (blatantly misogynist, homophobic or racist lyrics) but sometimes one has to set their personal comfort aside to express art.
It’s a very simple equation – if I want to work, I have to be able to set my ego aside and force myself focus on each individual song’s goal and who the intended audience is. I treat all of my gigs in the same way – be it a recording session, singing in a church choir or a solo house concert!
As a founding member of Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus, I have had to sing a number of songs that I feel support stereotypical views of gay culture. However I realize that as a chorus that has a focus on supporting the gay community and educating all areas about the diversity of Canada’s gay culture, I’d have to swallow my pride (ba dum bum) and sing these songs. The same way that our first cabaret, titled “Easter Gaybaret,” made me uncomfortable – however it served a purpose and helped establish our brand as a community organization.
Believe me, as a classically trained musician and singer who is also a heavy metal and honky tonk listening punk from the suburbs, I don’t meet the “typical” view of a gay man – I don’t particularly like Barbra Streisand or Bette Midler and my Broadway show tunes collection is extremely limited. However I realize that our chorus’ repertoire must reflect the views and experiences of all chorus members. This is why I joined the chorus’ artistic committee as a founding member, to ensure that every one has an equal chance to have a part of the soundtrack to their lives heard!
While some of the members may initially chafe due to the song selection and perhaps even the themes of the shows, they understand it represents a broader spectrum and that they can realize that their voices can be heard as well if they engage.
As a performer there is always a certain amount of ego involved and sometimes that ego can bruise due to the demands placed upon it. I am constantly reminding my ego that it can’t always be about me and I work on serving each performance to my utmost. When the time comes when it is all about me, it allows my ego a chance to savour that moment even more!