It’s absolutely necessary for you to develop a vision for your live show. You must ask yourself: “What do I want the end result to be?”
Whether it’s a creative project, a business plan, or any endeavor – if it’s worth spending time doing, you need to develop a vision for how you want it to turn out.
A famous proverb says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Let me paraphrase that for your live show: “Without a vision, your show will die!”
Here’s what I mean by a “vision” for your show: seeing in your mind’s eye how a song will be rearranged, how it will look onstage, how it will affect the audience, and how they’ll respond to the song before you even play it live!
I often work with artists who have been playing the same songs so long, and they’re so ‘close’ to the songs, they can’t think outside the way they’ve always performed the songs to come up with anything new.
You can learn a lesson from some of the major artists I’ve worked with. Way before the tour begins, they’re thinking about the design of the stage, the costume changes, the spirit of “that song” musically and visually. And they’re taking the steps (even before going into rehearsals) to accomplish what they see in their head!
They work on getting the right equipment, the right band, and the right instruments. They prepare physically and emotionally so they’ll have creative rehearsals.
For me, when I work with a major artist, or even when I spend time with an indie, I pick their brain to find out who they are as people and as artists. I listen to their songs and jot down ideas for each of them.
As I spend time with each song, I start getting a vision for how we can make an emotional connection with the audience and how they will react to the song. Is it sad, fun, intense, angry? What’s the strength of the song – the lyrics, the playing, the melody, the vocal, the rhythm? I try to capture the emotion of the song and I consider the strengths of the artist and the song as I look to help them rearrange it.
Then I start thinking visually – how the song should look? You’ve heard me say, “songs don’t sound the same, so they shouldn’t look the same.” How do we creatively present this song to capture a moment visually? We want the entire audience to get it, not just the artist!
Getting a vision is a mental, creative exercise, and it’s not easy to explain. The artists I know who do it, all do it differently. I often work with artists who have been playing the same songs so long, and they’re so ‘close’ to the songs, they can’t think outside the way they’ve always performed the songs to come up with anything new.
It’s not an uncommon problem. That’s why people hire us. They want us to help them develop a vision for their show, or help them accomplish their vision with their show.
It’s not easy to teach people how to do this: it’s like explaining to someone on the phone what you’re seeing. You’re on the beach watching clouds overhead, and seeing creatures in them, and trying to explain it…it just doesn’t always translate easily.
But try the exercise in your mind of seeing “the end result” of your songs and your show. You may not be able to design a stage set, have costume changes, or have the budget to do anything huge, but you can get a vision beyond just “playing the song” and hoping the audience gets it.