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J. Scott Thompson / Blog

You Can Say You Knew Them When

I'm a music fanatic. From blues to big band, soul to country, rock to reggae, I can't get enough. In this age of downloads, I still buy CD's so that I can read the liner notes and long for a record player so I can start collecting vinyl (again). With all the access I have to music, my favorite medium remains and will always remain, live music. Nothing compares to watching a great live performance by a great artist. Thankfully, I live in a town with a thriving music scene, so I have ample opportunity to hear great music regularly. Over the years I've found one of the key components of a great performance is audience support. It's a daunting task to get up in front of a room full of strangers and play your original tunes, but with an enthusiastic crowd all the nerves disappear and you can get down to making that emotional connection that makes for a great performance. This is the part where you come in. If you're a music lover, especially a live music lover, support it. Go to shows, meet the artists, buy their CD's and t-shirts, spread the word. The music business is a ridiculously tough way to make a living, but for many, like myself, it's not a choice. I could sooner stop breathing than stop playing music and writing songs. That being said, when you meet fans that believe in what you do, it makes the tough times a little easier to get through. To find someone that gets it, that gets what you're trying to do, that believes in your music and supports you goes way beyond the potential CD or t-shirt sale. It's validating even though you may not need validation. It shows that you might be on to something after all. I've met my wife and most of my dearest friends through music and that is an amazing thing. So, go out this weekend and check out that guy playing at your local bar or the girl at the street festival. Throw a dollar or two in the tip jar, buy their CD and support their art, because you never know where they're going to end up, and one day with any luck, you'll be able to say you knew them when.

How I made $6000. playing to an empty room.

We've all been there, you show up to the big gig, guitars in hand only to find that besides the bartender, beer salesman, and you, the place is empty. As you set up a few others stroll in, but by showtime the room is still mostly deserted. Despite your desire to pack up and go home, you strap on your guitar and get to work. Sadly, it's not always packed houses and crazed fans that love your original tunes. Sometimes we have to pull our way through nights when the only people listening are the two salesmen in the corner that haven't even acknowledged your existence in the two hours you've been playing. So what do we do? We rock it like it's sold out! As hard as it is to do, you have to play your best shows on these nights. It's easy to kill it when the crowd is going wild, but you find out the kind of performer you really are on the slow nights. And, even though you think that no one is listening, that doesn't mean it's true.

Case in point: I was playing a gig with my drummer and bass player the night before a big football game in town. There was supposed to be an enormous crowd, but when I got to the gig, the place was mostly empty. We set up and began playing, but soon realized that the crowd wasn't coming. After a few hours the bartender said to call it a night. We were having a blast playing together and decided to play one more before wrapping it up. As we burned through a favorite blues-rock tune, three men in suits showed up. They grabbed a table up front and we put on a show. They loved it and called for more. After another hour of playing requests we packed it in. One of the men called us to their table and asked if we were available to play a private event the next evening. After a bit of negotiation and a few phone calls, we worked it out. Despite the fact that we had a slow night, we played our hearts out and were rewarded with a gig that paid $6,000! The lesson was not lost on me. Whether you're playing for a small group or a big crowd, put on a great show, because you never who's listening and what they might need.

It's easy to get bogged down with the business of music and lose track of why we love it so much, but if you can tap into that excitement you had as a kid just getting started and remember how much fun it is just playing music with friends, you'll pull yourself through. People in the audience can tell when your phoning it in or really loving what you do. And, when you're really loving it, it's contagious. People want to be a part of it and you create more fans, contacts, and money because of it. So remember, whether you're playing for two people or 2,000, play like your life depends on it. It does.

What is a house concert anyway?

If you read my status updates with any regularity, you've probably heard me mention hosting a house concert. So, what is a house concert anyway? Fear not, it's not a Rolling Stones-esque night of debauchery that leaves your house as well as your nerves in shambles.........unless you want that. No, this is an intimate evening of live original music in your living room shared with great friends and great food! Sounds good right? So, how does it work? It starts with you and I setting a date, then you invite as many people as you feel you can fit in your living room. You inform your guests that while there is no charge, donations are accepted and that this is a listening show, socializing takes place before and after the concert. Also, guests are asked to bring a dish. At the designated time, I'll play an hour or so of original music and hopefully leave you and your guests hanging on every word and wanting more! Afterwards we'll eat, drink and be merry! I'll bring CD's and t-shirts for everyone to purchase. House concerts are becoming more and more popular lately, but are by no means a new thing. People have been hosting them for thousands of years, now you can too! Interested? Send me a message and we can talk about setting one up. Have you hosted one before? I'd love to hear how you thought it went. What you did to make it an extra special night? I've been really enjoying the beautiful fall color here in the south, I hope it's beautiful where you are too. Have a great week! Scott

When the fish are biting, be ready to cast.

It was a perfect setting. Sunset, a beautiful dinner, a great glass of wine, and then it happened......It sounded like someone paddling a boat down the river then I realized it was a hatch. The trout were going crazy! It was like every fish in the river was right in front of our cabin in a feeding frenzy! I set down my glass of wine, grabbed my fly rod and raced for the water. I tried in vain to tie on a fly in the fading light, but found it nearly impossible. Finally, after several attempts, I got one on. I took three or four casts before realizing that it was over. As quickly as it had started, it ended. Back on the deck, wine in hand, I thought about the importance of being prepared. Whether I'm fishing or playing music, I try to be ready for anything. Am I always? No, but I try. In music, great opportunities don't come by that often so it pays to be ready. If I get asked to perform an original song or sing a demo, I'm ready. I try my best to never let those chances get by me. You just never know whose listening or who might be able to help you with your goals. You never become a success by chance. It takes being focused, confident, and prepared. So, are you prepared? Have a great week y'all! Scott

Beale, busking, and BBQ in Memphis.

I love Memphis. It has everything I love. Music everywhere, BBQ, Elvis and the blues. I was there all of last week playing some corporate gigs for my great friends at Shaw Ind. Since I had some time to kill between gigs, I took advantage of much of what the area has to offer. Monday was a travel day. I got to Memphis about 2:30 and checked in at the Peabody. Being hungry, I headed over to Blues City Cafe for a half rack of ribs and took a little time to shake off the drive over. Then back to the hotel to get set up for the gig. Tuesday, I went on a blues pilgrimage down Highway 61 to the Mississippi delta. On the road by 7:30 am, I drove two and a half hours down to Indianola, home of B.B. King. I toured the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. It was amazing. I think I was there a little over two hours and was still ready for more! Well worth the drive. I pointed my rental van north and headed up highway 49 back to Clarksdale, home of the famous crossroads where, supposedly, Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to play the blues. At the meeting of highway 61 and highway 49, I found something much better than satanic blues power, I found awesome BBQ at Abe's. Smoking butts at the crossroads since 1924, it's entirely possible that Robert Johnson was a customer. After lunch, I headed over to the Delta Blues Museum. Another great stop. If you ever find yourself in Mississippi and have some time to kill, do yourself a favor and go visit both museums and have lunch at Abe's. You won't be sorry. Wednesday, I went busking. I found a spot between several sandwich shops on Main St., tuned up and got to work. I played about an hour and a half and made a grand total of $13 and some change, but I had a blast! Thursday morning I walked over to Starbucks, got some fuel and continued my morning stroll over to the Civil Rights Museum. Located in the former Lorraine Motel, the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. This is an amazing, moving place you must experience. The tour is an incredible history lesson that will move you to tears. At one point during the tour you end up in MLK Jr's room (306), which has been preserved exactly as it was the day he was killed. I left the museum and caught the trolley back to the Peabody, grabbed my guitar and walked up to Main St. to find a place to set up and sing. Busking is something I'd never done before, but instantly fell in love with. It's a great challenge to try and get (and keep) strangers attention as they pass by on their way to and from lunch. I set up about twenty yards down from a sandwich shop and started belting it out. Before long, I had an audience hanging out and making requests. After about 20 minutes the owner of the shop came out the door towards me. I thought he was going to ask me to move somewhere else. Instead, he asked me to move closer to his door and offered to buy me lunch when I finished! I had such a good time I decided I'm going to try busking in every town I'm gigging in. After a great lunch, I dropped my guitar at the room and walked over to the Gibson guitar factory for the factory tour. I'd seen it before, but I never tire of seeing guitars coming to life! At 3:30, I met my Shaw friends in the lobby for a trip to Graceland. This is another tour I'd seen before, but come on, this is Elvis's house! I could go once a week! The decor, the suits, the awards, the cars......it's just so cool! Later that evening after dinner, the whole group walked down to Beale St. for a last night of great (and, not so great!) music before parting ways in the morning. I can't say enough about how blessed I am to make a living playing music. Not only the joy of pursuing my passion, but the people I get to know in doing it. If you're reading this, you're probably one of those people, so, thanks for being a part of it! And, if you haven't been to Memphis, GO! In fact, tell me when you're going, I might bring a guitar and tag along. Have a great week! Scott

The CD release party

At long last the live CD is out! "Live from the High Lonesome" was recorded back in March and mixed and mastered between gigs and vacations. It's a true live album, no overdubs. Any mistakes are still there, which I'm good with. I like that aspect of a live album, especially in this age of surgically perfect albums where songs are Pro-Tooled within an inch of their lives! The release party was Saturday night. This was not the weekend I wanted to do a release party considering it's Labor day weekend and the start of college football which, here in the south, is taken as seriously as religion. But, due to a busy gig schedule, that was the only date available. I was pleasantly surprised. A great, enthusiastic crowd reminded me of why I love this so much and everyone had a great time. I hope you were there, but if not, maybe I'll see you soon at one of my upcoming gigs. Check the schedule, set the date and join me for a great night of music. Live too far away? I'll have the new CD on CD Baby.com within a week or two, so you can order one of your own! Have a great week and thanks for your support! Scott

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