I wanted to update everyone–especially the non-Memphians–on last week’s show. I opened for Cory Branan and Jeremy Stanfill at the Hi-Tone. If you’ve read this blog and followed my show-dates in the past, you know that I’m a fan of Jeremy; if you’ve ever spent 30 seconds around me, you know Cory’s one of my all-time favorite artists. So, it was a real honor warming up their crowd.
There’s some added pressure playing for someone like Cory, whose music I’ve admired for such a long time. Several of you were sweet enough to write before and after the show to ask if I was nervous. The honest answer is “no.”
Once upon a time, when I first started playing out in Nashville, I had a short phase of stage fright. I got nervous before, during, and after every show. Thankfully, that phase only lasted a few weeks. Later, I’d occasionally get nervous before a show if it was a new challenge–a new city, a new venue, a bigger crowd that I was used to, etc.
Now, if I feel prepared, I rarely get nervous. The things that make me edgy are mid-show problems. For example, a problem with the sound system, or vocal health, or some disturbance in the crowd***–those things can disrupt the flow of the show. But just getting up there and playing? No. It’s only fun, regardless of room, crowd, or other artists on the bill. I trust myself, and if I’m prepared and healthy, I’m relaxed.
(***Note: When I say “disturbance in the crowd,” I’m talking about an argument or issue not involving me. For some reason, I don’t mind any hostility/friendly heckling directed at me. But every now and then I’ll be mid-song and hear a shouting match or a fight in the front row; that makes the rest of the crowd uncomfortable and distracted, and it’s always a challenge getting everyone relaxed after that.)
As for the show itself, everything went great. I played a half hour, Jeremy played a half hour, and Cory played for the rest of the night. Here’s my setlist:
“If You Don’t Love Me By Now” (Up)
“Coldweather Girls” (Up)
“Shine” (Tin Angel EP)
“Thirteen” (Big Star cover)
“Amy’s Gone Away” (unreleased)
“Never In Love” (unreleased)
Because Cory’s music is so listener-friendly, the Hi-Tone was set up for listening: folks sat around tables throughout the room, and everyone was quiet and attentive. Of course, that’s any opener’s dream, especially any singer/songwriter: a roomful of people listening. So, thanks again to everyone for being so nice and engaged.
During “Thirteen,” I heard someone up front singing high harmony on the last line of each verse (“take you,” “shake you,” “make you,”). Of course, it’s always too dark to see who’s doing what in the crowd. I just enjoyed it and kept playing. Later, Cory and I talked briefly, and he was really kind about the set. He said he wanted to join me on “Thirteen” but didn’t want to step on my toes, so he sang along from the table. Turns out he was the phantom harmonizer. I told him to “step on my toes” whenever he wants–next time, we’ll sing it together.
Of course, Jeremy absolutely brought it and Cory was as good as I’ve ever seen him. He played a lot of songs that will be on the next record. If the live performances are any indication, it will be scary good. Can’t wait for it.
One more cool note: Ben Nichols (singer–Lucero) and Steve Selvidge (guitarist–Hold Steady, Amy LaVere, a million others) were also in the crowd last Thursday. They’re two more of my favorite Memphis musicians, so it was cool seeing a chunk of my record collection represented. Felt like a nice homecoming. If you’re picturing a lot of moments where I’m trying my best not to geek out, you know me too well. I walked around for four hours with a huge dopey grin.
I’ll wrap up with a video from the show. This is a brand new song I debuted last Thursday, and I’m not sure it’s 100% finished. Anyway, it was a blast to play–let me know what you think!
Chris Milam, “Amy’s Gone Away” (5-26-11)